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Call No. S ~?l/ L- 74 O Accession No. 

Author LJipS^ T- .. 

This book should be returned on or before the date last marked below .ft 


By the Same Author 



A Cultural History of Man 



Illustrations by EVA LIPS 



First published KM 9 
18-! High Holboin, London, W C i 

Copyright. All rights reserved 

Dewey Decimal classification: 571 

Made in Great Britain. Printed by The Riverside Press, Edinburgh 


THE IMPETUS to write this book was perhaps unique. It seems 
to me that the social life of an anthropologist is more intimately 
interwoven with his profession than that of most other scientists. 
How often at dinner^ and cocktail parties some one has asked 
me: "You are an anthropologist? Now tell me everything about 
anthropology ! " 

Such a general wish is, naturally, not easy to satisfy, but upon 
rising from the table the inquirer would at least know that plates 
and forks, chairs and cosmetics, rings and bracelets, liquors and 
wines, are no inventions of a recent era, but that they go back to 
the dawn of time. 

But more often the questions have not been of such a vague 
nature. Not only women but men have wished to know whether 
hair-styles, lipstick, and the many beauty tricks applied by our 
modern women are the inventions of the refinements and sophisti- 
cation of recent times. People have been either disappointed or 
amused and satisfied to learn that these things are in fact thousands 
of years old and that even more cunning gadgets and preparations 
were used by so-called * savages.' 

When conversation, inspired by the events of the day, has turned 
to more serious matters, like social security and, especially, the 
ambiguous 'democracy,' these have been shown to be anything but 
modern achievements to be, in fact, often rather inadequate 
imitations of similar systems established by humanity millenniums 
ago. Experts in modern communication, such as the newspaper 
and the radio, have been interested to hear that mankind has always 
found skilful means of notifying the public of important news events 
efficiently and speedily. 

Indeed, I have been surprised at the lively interest shown in such 
revelations. This interest has been even more pronounced among 
my fellow-anthropologists and my teacher friends. Their encourage- 
ment to tell to the general public the origin of our modern tools, 
habits, traditions, and beliefs added considerably to the inspiration 
I began to feel, and many talks with students and younger folks 
opened my eyes to their specific interests. Naturally, I tried to find 
out what aspects of human culture are most directly connected with 
the problems of our time, and the fifteen chapters of this book are 
the result of my private poll on the special interests and curiosities 
of men and women in many walks of life. 


But all this encouragement in itself would not have induced me 
to write this book if I had not felt strongly that it is the task of an 
anthropologist, especially in our days, to work in his field towards a 
closer understanding among peoples and cultures. The heritage 
we took over from primitive man is common to all races and nations. 
The common ground of all peoples revealed by the facts of anthro- 
pology should in the end contribute more towards the realization of 
One World. The early inventors and benefactors of human culture 
cannot be distinguished by colour of skin, nationality, or religion 
they remain anonymous. But most of them have contributed more 
to human happiness than many a modern statesman. 

The Second World War has brought us into contact with almost 
all peoples on earth, and a new Age of Discovery has aroused new 
interest in foreign peoples and foreign cultures. The discoveries 
in nuclear physics, on the other hand, have stressed anew the line of 
evolution and, perhaps, suggested the possibility of a destruction of 
all human civilization. This book has been written as a contribution 
towards the understanding of the development of human culture, and 
in an effort to promote mutual co-operation between peoples and 
cultures and, last but not least, in the hope that it may contribute 
to the realization of the One World for which we strive. 



















INDEX 415 





WINDBREAK: Andaman Islands 22 


QUADRANGULAR HOUSE: Kwakiutl Indians 23 

TEEPEE: Plains Indians 24 


STORAGE HOUSES FOR ACORNS: Miwok Indians, California 27 

CLAY PIousEs: Musgu, Cameroons, West Africa 28 

TUKUL (DWELLING): Upper Nile 29 

THATCHED HOUSE: Batak, Sumatra 29 


HOPI CLIFF DWELLING: The ancient Town of Walpi 31 

BANDA DWELLING: French Equatorial Africa 32 

CARVED HOUSE POST: Maori, New Zealand 33 


Indians 36 

HEAD-REST OF WOOD: Geelvink Bay, New Guinea 36 

WOODEN HEAD-REST: Santa Cruz Islands 37 

HEAD-REST: Kafirs, South Africa 38 

HEAD-REST: Mamberamo, New Guinea 38 

BENCH OF CEDARWOOD: Guarani Indians, East Paraguay 39 


WOODEN BOWL: Santa Cruz Islands 40 


WATER- CONTAINER: Santa Cruz Islands 42 

Indians 42 


FIRE FAN: Pangwe, West Africa 44 

PANGWE LADLES : West Africa 45 


REVOLUTION OF THE TOOLS": Valle de Chicama, Peru 48 





9 1* 



Palaeolithic Figure from the Grottoes of Lespugue, Haute 

Garonne, France 

Dancing Women : Rock Painting from Cogul, Spain 
The "Venus of Willendorf": Ice-age Figure of Carved 



SCAR-TATTOO : Yao, East Africa 57 

FACIAL PAINTING: Thompson Indians 57 







MAN'S CONICAL CAP, 'DIBA': Kabiri, Papua, New Guinea 65 

Wyndham, North-west Australia 68 
Magnon 70 
ANCIENT NOSE ORNAMENT (Gold): Chirnu, Peru 71 
WOMAN'S COSTUME: North-eastern Tribes, Lake Leopold II, 
Belgian Congo 72 



GIRAFFE PITFALL: Kafirs, South Africa 77 

North America 78 

SNARE TRAP : Labrador Indians 79 

SPIKED-WHEEL TRAP : Maka, Cameroons, West Africa 80 






GRAVITY TRAPS : Ice-age Drawings 85 

GRAVITY TRAPS : In use by Primitive Peoples of To-day 85 

CAUGHT IN WHEEL TRAP : Hieraconpolis, Egypt 86 

Gaume 86 

TRAP CHARM: North Borneo 87 








Drawing 92 

DIGGING STICKS : Gran Chaco and British Columbia 93 



SEED 98 



Found at Sigerslev, Denmark 
Cylindrical Hoe 



STORAGE CONTAINERS: Ovambo, Africa 105 


WOODEN PLOUGH: Kabyles 109 

MAN-DRAWN PLOUGH: Ancient Egypt (El Kah) no 



'LiLLiL* CLUB: Western South Wales, Australia 115 

WOODEN FOOD-BOWL: Island Truk (Carolines) 115 


HEAD-SHAPED CUP: Southern Congo 116 

WOODEN BOWL: Southern Congo 116 


WOODEN LADLE: African Gold Coast 118 

BARK BASKET: Bathurst Island, Australia 118 

Naskapi, Labrador 119 


Central Celebes 

Santa Cruz Islands 

TAPA (BARK CLOTH): Fiji Archipelago 121 

WOODEN SPEAR-POINT: Early Palaeolithic Age ; Clacton-on-Sea 121 





Bone Tools of the Fuegians 

Fur Scraper (Caribou Leg-bone) Montagnais-Naskapi 

Neolithic Bone Needle and Awl 

Bolivia 122 

COCONUT OPENER: Bismarck Archipelago 122 

CHIPPED-STONE TOOLS: Early Palaeolithic Stage 123 

STONE POINTS: Younger Palaeolithic Stage 123 
SPEAR -POINTS : Early Palaeolithic Stage and Younger Palaeolithic Stage 123 


Cylindrical Hoe 

Axe-head of Flintstone 




FAN, WOVEN FROM Coco LEAF: Santa Cruz Islands 125 

TWINED BASKET: Alligator river, Arnhemland, Australia 125 




YUKI BASKET: California 126 

PATTERN FOR CROSS- WEAVING : Dutch East India 128 


NEOLITHIC WHORL: Found at Knossos 131 

PREHISTORIC SPINNING WHORL: Thessalian Sesklo-Culture 131 

CRUDE EARTHENWARE CUP: Found in a Mound near Lodi, Calif. 134 

SPIRAL-COIL POTTERY: South-east Coast of New Guinea 135 

COIL POTTERY: Baila, North Rhodesia 135 

WATER-JUG: Peru 137 


GOLD SMELTER: Ancient Egypt 141 

WINGED IBEX: Fourth Century B.C. 141 

IRON FURNACE: Tanganyika, East Africa 142 




BEER-BREWING WOMEN: Belgian Congo 150 


BETEL-BOX: Timor 157 









Cherokee Pipe of Black Stone 

Pipe of the Yakuts 

Tobacco Pipe (Wood) : Pangwe, West Africa 

Tobacco Pipe (Clay) : Pangwe, West Africa 

BUNDLED CIGARS AND ASH-TRAY: Codex Florentino, Mexico 160 

MEXICAN SMOKER: Codex Vindebonensis Mexico 160 
SMOKING MAYA PRIEST: Stone Relief at the Temple of Palenque 160 

WOODEN PIPE-BOWL: Haida Indians 161 

PIPE-BOWL (Clay): North Cameroons 162 





KUMYSS-BAG: Yakuts 165 

Cruz Islands 167 

DOLLS 167 

Dolls of Elm Bark and Willow Withes : Chippewa Indians 

Clay Dolls of the Choroti Indians : Rio Pilcomavo, Bolivia 

TOY HEDGEHOG: From the Ruins of Susa, 2000 B.C. 168 

GAME BOARD : Pangwe, West Africa 1 68 


RACKET: Passamaquoddy Indians 172 

'KiCK BALL': Mandan Indians 172 



Tow BRIDGE: Peru 176 

LIANA BRIDGE: Guatemala 177 

POLE BRIDGE: Chibcha 178 






COOLIE' YOKE: Mexican Indians 180 




Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, Labrador 

European Alps 

Eskimo of Baffinland 



TOBOGGAN: Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, Labrador 184 

EGYPTIAN CHARIOT: 14006.0. 187 


ROOT RAFTS: New Guinea 189 


BALSA BOAT: Lake Titicaca, Bolivia 190 

Bow OF * TAILORED ' BIRCH - BARK CANOE : Montagnais - Naskapi 

Indians, Labrador 193 

OUTRIGGER CANOE WITH SAIL: Madura Strait, Indonesia 193 

*MON' BOAT WITHOUT OUTRIGGER: Solomon Islands 193 

PADDLE: Solomon Islands 194 



Indians 196 

SHELL MONEY 'BAKIAU' AND 'SAPISAPI': South-east New Guinea 198 

TAMBU (DIWARRA) SHELL MONEY: Gazelle Peninsula 198 




BOAR'S FANG MONEY: New Guinea 201 


Solomon Islands 201 

' FBI ' MONEY STONE : Island Yap 202 



BRICK-TEA MONEY : Central Asia 205 

STONE-SALT MONEY: Abyssinia 205 

COPPER COIN: Congo 208 

IRON MONEY: Northern Congo 208 

SPEAR-POINT MONEY: Fang, West Africa 208 

MERCHANT WITH MONEY RING : Benin, West Africa 209 


ENGRAVED 'COPPER': Ceremonial Haida Money 210 


GONG OF THE AVUNGURA: Belgian Congo 218 

WAR DRUM: Pangwe, West Africa 219 





SIGNAL DRUM OF THE BANSSA: Cameroons, West Africa 221 


MESSAGE STICK: -Kimberleys, Western Australia 227 


Indians ' 230 


NINE OF THE TWENTY WEEK-DAYS : Calendar Symbols from Ancient 

Mexico 233 






Montagnais-Naskapi, Labrador 241 


Guinea 246 


Tierra del Fuego 249 



XYLOPHONE: Pangwe, West Africa 253 

TRIBAL INITIATION OF GIRLS: Vanyemba Tribe, Ngongo, Central 

Angola 255 

MASK OF A BUNDU NOVICE: West Africa 258 

BUNDU SHE-DEVIL : West Africa 258 


MASK ' BusLA-M ATLA ' : Indians of the American North-west Coast 263 

ANCIENT FERTILITY MASKS : Fumbam, West Africa 265 


Stone Age Cave at Trois Freres, Ariege, France 266 

DANCE MASK: Melanesia 267 


PAUTIWA, THE SUN-GOD: Pueblo Indians 271 

KOYEMCI MASK: Pueblo Indians 272 




MUKISH CLOWN : West Africa 275 

MUKISH ON STILTS : Vatchivoke, West Africa 275 




MIRLITONS : Pangwe, West Africa 283 

Music Bow: Gazelle Peninsula 284 

HARP : Pangwe, West Africa 284 

WOODEN TRUMPET : Pangwe, West Africa 284 




SHIELD : Murrumbidgee River, South-east Australia 289 




MANGBETU PALAVER: Belgian Congo 302 

PALAVER STOOL: Bamum, Cameroons 303 

TOP OF CHIEFTAIN'S MACE: Songo, Portuguese Congo 304 


BENIN WARRIOR : West Africa 308 

DJUR WARRIOR : Africa 309 




DOLLS USED FOR MAGIC: Zulu, South Africa 319 

MAGIC STAFF: Batak, Borneo 322 

FETISH POT: West Africa 323 

AMULET: Manyema, Congo 323 


KOPPENSNELLEN : New Guinea 328 

ANCESTRAL FIGURES : Haiti and Indonesia 328 

TJURUNGA OR SACRED STONE: Arunta, Central Australia 329 

SACRED WANING A OF THE SPIDER TOTEM : Arunta, Central Australia 330 

FETISH FIGURE: Western Congo 330 

FETISH SCEPTRE: Urua, Southern Congo 332 






'THE MAN IN THE MOON': Haida Indian Drawing 337 








NAILED SKULL: Puig Castellar (Spain) 365 

Arnhemland, Australia 366 


SKULL RECEPTACLE: Eastern Melanesia 369 


STUFFED HUMAN HEAD : New Guinea 370 

WOODEN DANCE MASK: Southern Congo 370 


'NiOMBO 5 : Babwende, West Africa 376 




Of Home and Hearth and Pots and Pans 

LET us GO HOME " is a sanctified expression in any language. The 
outside world is seen as a struggle for existence, a contest to 
guard vital human relationships against the ravages of rain and cold 
and heat and the unpredictable influences of things and people. But 
inside it is good to feel sheltered among dear ones and to relax amid 
the intimate surroundings of the fireplace. There is no human race 
without a deep appreciation of the blessings of home, whatever its 
shape, and when night falls all human beings on earth regardless of 
their particular faiths like to close their eyes to rest in the spirit 
of the Cornish ' litany ' : 

From ghoulies and ghosties 

And long-legged beasties, 

And things that go bump in the night, 

Good Lord, deliver us. 

Primitive man living in a world of animated things and ever- 
present spirits, and finding himself exposed to the immediate threats 
of nature, feels this desire more keenly than the civilized mind 
readily understands. 

The older, the more primitive, a people, the more extensive is the 
area they consider their home. To most primitive peoples it is not 
the more or less temporary structure which shelters the family from 
night and from wind and rain that is the basic expression of * home,' 
but rather the tribal land in its entirety. Any intruder who dares 
to set foot on its sacred soil pays with his life for his trespass. The 
plots on which individual families erect their shelters for the night 
are not important ; the land is their home. The land belongs to all, 
and all belong to the land which the tribe claims as its own. 

What is the form of the most ancient human habitation ? Is the 
* cave man ' as depicted in newspaper cartoons really the earliest 
home-owner ? Not at all. The fact that scientists have found many 
of the earliest possessions of man in caves, where preservation was 
best maintained through the millenniums, has misled the layman 
to believe that the cave was prehistoric man's first solution to his 
housing problem. This notion is an underestimation of human 
ingenuity. It makes no allowance for climatic and geographic 
influences on the choice of shelters. 

The existence of caves in a region was by no means a prerequisite 



of human settlement ; more material evidences of prehistoric home 
life have been found in open places than in caves. Wherever caves 
or grottoes were chosen as abodes there was a special reason for 
their suitability, such as the severity of climate at the peaks of the 
glacial periods like the so-called Mousterian epoch, or the require- 
ments of the hunt for game, abundant in alpine regions. The man 
of the European 'bone culture' whose prey was the cave bears 
(Ursus spelceus) followed them into the high alps where he therefore 
made his home. The highest dwelling of this type is the so-called 
" Dragon Hole " near Vattis (Switzerland), which lies 8000 feet 
above sea-level. But those contemporaries of this alpine hunter 
whose game were animals of the lower regions did not dwell in 
caves. There is no evidence that peoples of the palaeolithic pre- 
Chellean culture, for instance, ever lived in caves. Troglodytism, 
or cave life, was either a temporary necessity or, even more often, 
a mere adjunct to the customary life in hand-built abodes. The 
best-known prehistoric caves discovered and described by modern 
scientists Le Moustier in the French Vezere Valley, Font-de- 
Gaume in the Dordogne, Le Mas D'Azil (Ariege), the grotto of 
Aurignac (Haute- Garonne), and the ancient Italian and Spanish 
caves reveal the very interesting fact that their main purpose was 
not to serve as family homes but rather as community houses or, if 
we may use the term in this connexion, as churches. While the 
space near their entrances occasionally served temporal purposes, 
the inner halls show sacred paintings of religious and magic signi- 
ficance ; and remains of altars with displays of animal skulls 
indicate clearly that they were halls of worship. Only the front 
parts of the caves were occasionally used for dwellings, and, even 
then, the half-open shelter under overhanging rock gables at the 
entrances was apparently preferred. 

Among the most primitive tribes of our time who still live on 
the cultural level of the Stone Age and there are many only the 
Veddas of Ceylon and the Toala of Celebes show a preference 
for troglodytic homes, because caves are abundant in their terri- 
tories. Most tribes equally ancient prefer the windbreak, that 
oldest * house ' of warm climates, the use of which was very 
common among the brethren of the * cave men ' of palaeolithic 
times. Its flimsy materials could not survive the millenniums, 
although the remnants of one such diluvial ' house ' were discovered 
by Forrer near Spichern in the Alsace. 

The windbreak consists of a simple structure of trees or branches 
stuck into the soil to form a straight wall or semicircular enclosure. 
The framework is covered with brush, leaves, bark, or grass to 



provide a rudimentary shelter against wind and rain. Those 
nomadic tribes whose form of economy forces them to roam 
continuously over large areas choose it for their homes tribes 
like the Australians, the now extinct Tasmanians, the Veddas, the 
Negritos, the Bushmen, and many American Indians. Following 
the moving herds of their game animals, constantly on the look-out 
for the herbs, roots, and berries which constitute their food supplies, 

After Lips 

these people can build or break up their living-quarters quickly. 
If several families hunt together they build their windbreaks side 
by side. While on hunting trips the Bushmen find even quicker 
shelter in their so-called bosjes by simply tying together the branches 
of growing shrubs ; but in the sandy regions of the Kalahari 
their windbreaks are of more solid construction. Tribes of the 
Chaco occasionally arrange their protective roofs in long rows and 
cover them with rush ; the Negritos use grass. The Andamanese 
shelter is nothing but a windbreak resting on four poles. American 
Indians such as the Apache build wicki-ups of twigs interlaced with 
brush, and use them as their favourite summer abodes. 

Even this most ancient man-built shelter can be considered a 
prototype of the fundamental form of the two oldest types of house : 
the dome-shaped round hut or ' beehive ' and the quadrangular 
house. The most primitive tribes often prefer the round hut, 
which is to be found in Australia and among many African and 
American peoples. Architecturally, it is simply two semicircular 
wind-breaks, woven together. The quadrangular house, on the 



Andaman Islands 
After A. R. Brown 

other hand, was developed by roofing over the area between the 
two parallel vertically erected windbreaks. 

The windbreak and the house 
forms derived from it are satis- 
factory only in comparatively mild 
climates. In cooler regions a 
dwelling must be constructed of 
materials better adapted to keep 
out wind and cold but which 
can nevertheless be quickly put 
together. The igloo of the Eskimo 
is nothing but a beehive hut built 
of snow and ice bricks. A long, 
open hallway leading to the out- 
side provides adequate ventilation while insulating the entrance 
against cold winds. The warm comfort of the Eskimo abode is 



well known, but, as Stefansson reports, " a new camp is warmer 
than an old one, for a new snow house is a snow house, but an old 
one is an ice house/' Although the building of an igloo takes 
more time than a tropical dome-shaped hut, it is nevertheless only a 
temporary home of hunters, which must be abandoned in the spring 
when the snow on the roof begins to thaw and when puddles of 
water on the floor make " the interior of every Eskimo house like 
a lake all summer." The same dwelling may be reoccupied during 
the autumn when the snow begins to freeze, but this is done only 
when its former occupants happen to return to the same region. 

The Eskimo as well as many 
other primitive tribes have often 
been induced by the white man's 
greed to work in mines and re- 
ceive, as a reward, the dubious 
benefits of the civilizers' housing 
facilities in the form of wooden 
or tin-plate hovels. The results 
at Wainwright Inlet, for instance, 
have been so damaging to the 
natives' health that the white man 
himself has had to persuade 
them to return to the old igloo. 
Similar experiments have been 
made in many other regions 
under civilized influence in 
South Africa, for one and the result has always been detrimental. 

We saw that the windbreak, man's oldest hand-built shelter, 
foreshadows even in its crudest beginnings the shape of the two 
principal house types : the dome-shaped beehive and the quad- 
rangular house. But also the tent, another easily movable shelter, 
has its origin in the windbreak. The different types of tents used 
by primitive man and by his later imitators of the civilized world 
are characteristic of nomadic peoples. Their livelihood being 
derived from hunting or herding, they must be able to dismantle 
their houses quickly. 

The tent of the arctic, subarctic, and related tribes is a conical 
structure of wooden poles arranged in a circular pattern and 
covered, according to climate and season, with bark or animal 
skins. Well known to most of us since boyhood days is the tipi 
or teepee of the Plains Indians which is of characteristic shape 
and of especially fine workmanship. What story of * Wild West ' 
adventure would be complete without mention of the teepee ? 


Kwakiutl Indians 
After H. W. Krieger 


Although its general appearance is well known, its method of con- 
struction is not equally familiar, so it may be worth while to quote 
the description by Waterman : 

In setting up the tipi, two poles were put together in the form of 
a V and lashed at their intersections with the end of a rope, the rest 
of which was left dangling. A third pole was then fastened to the 
apex of the V, and the three were raised into the air to form a tripod. 
This was the foundation of the tent. Additional poles were carefully 
laid in place, the women for this was women's work tossing a 
turn or hitch of the rope over each new pole and binding the whole 
firmly together. The cover was next hoisted into place and stretched 
around the framework, being pegged down to the ground all 
round. The cover was so shaped that at the top of the tent there 
was an opening left for the escape of the smoke, and flanking the 
smoke hole were two flaps known as " ears." The distribution of 
this type of dwelling was dependent upon the distribution of the 
buffalo. A whole tribe would sometimes hang on the flanks of a 
buffalo herd, moving as the herd moved. 

Each detail is given the greatest of care, and although the main 
characteristic of the Indian tent is its mobility, the precision of all 

its parts in assembly never suffers. 
The layman occasionally confuses 
the teepee with the wigwam of the 
Algonquian - speaking peoples of 
the Atlantic side of the North 
American continent. The wigwam 
is no tent, the word merely mean- 
ing * dwelling/ It is a conical 
lodge with an arched-over roof of 
the type which the Sac, the Fox, 
and other Indian tribes still occupy 

The tents of the Indians of the 
interior of Labrador, like the Nas- 
kapi, are not quite as elaborate as 
the Plains Indians' teepees. Their 
ground plan, however, is the same. 
In the wilderness of the present-day 
hunting grounds of these tribes 
which have remained unchanged through the centuries many an 
old hunter still covers his tent with caribou skins in the winter 
and with birch bark in the summer, stitching the pieces together 
with a bone needle and carefully tailoring them to fit the pole 

Plains Indians 


structure. But in the Hudson's Bay Company posts modem 
Indians obtain in exchange for their precious furs the white man's 
heavy duck cloth to cover tents, whose main structure follows 
that of the olden times with only the addition of a horizontal 
roof- tree. Such a tent lacks the beauty of the older models whose 
naturally blended aspect is achieved by skin and bark, but when 
it is snowed on there is nothing to indicate its machine-made 

The tents of the Lapps, the only arctic tribe of Europe, are 
very similar to the North American varieties. During the summer 







i. Northern Asia 5. Asiatic Herdsmen 
North America 6. Herdsmen of Tibet and Arabia 
2. Lapps 7. Lake Chad region, Somaliland 
3. Eskimo 8. Patagonians, Araucanians 
4. Palaeo-Asiatic Tribes 

After Montandon 

these goattas are abandoned for more convenient log huts of light 
construction which, however, maintain many of the structural 
features of the tent. The Russian Finns and the peoples of the 
Amur region still put two windbreaks together to form a saddle- 
shaped roof. The felt- or leather-covered yourtas of the Central 
Asiatic nomads are low and spreading and usually erected over pits 
in the ground. These dwellings are used by many tribes throughout 
Central Asia extending to the borders of Tibet. The black tents 
of the Tibetans, loosely woven from the hairs of the yak, allow a 
veiled view of the outside, although they are completely waterproof. 
The tents of the North African desert nomads have a rectangular 
ground-plan, and are covered with palm leaves or with animal 
skins. South American nomads of the Patagonian Plateau, the 
Tehuelche and the Tsoneca, use similarly convenient fur-covered 

The white man with all his resources has not been able to invent 


anything more practical than the tent for hunting expeditions, 
or for housing mobile troops even in this age of mechanized warfare. 
Boy Scouts and Girl Guides learn to appreciate nature while 
camping in the tent, and many of us may have protected our picnic 
grounds or camp-fires with a quickly erected windbreak without 
recognizing its venerable past. The skilled arctic hunter, Indian 
or white, still knows the art of erecting an overnight shelter by arch- 
ing interwoven brush and trees, which he then covers with thick 
layers of snow and ice. 

All these ancient types of temporary shelters have the common 
characteristic that they may be rapidly constructed from materials 
at hand or assembled and dismantled with transportable materials. 
But what were the first sturdier structures like ? What are the fore- 
runners of the house as we know it ? It may seem strange, yet it is 
of significance, that the first more solid constructions were not 
erected to shelter humans, but to protect and preserve the collected 
wild-plant products on which their sustenance depended. A 
large group of tribes, especially of Australia and America, lives 
partially or exclusively on one or more wild plants whose seeds, 
roots, bulbs, or tubers provide their food during almost the entire 
year. Although still ignorant of agricultural cultivation, these 
harvesters derive their livelihood from the abundance of the wild 
fields which nature has provided at certain spots on their lands. 
It may be that wild roots grow there by the thousands, or that wild 
rice fields or wild acorn groves furnish the available food ; in any 
instance, peoples who gather them are vitally concerned with their 
preservation. These tribes no longer live from hand to mouth ; 
they guarantee their future economic security by the preservation 
of wild products. Close to the harvesting fields they erect caches 
and storage houses solid enough to protect the precious wild harvest, 
while they themselves continue to live in dwellings of a more or 
less flimsy construction. The storage houses of, for instance, the 
acorn harvesters of California are substantial structures with 
thatched roofs of conical shape. 

A permanent family home for early peoples is a luxury to be 
afforded only by those who settled on the land as agriculturists. 
Only they could develop comfortable living-quarters in our sense 
of the term. From the simple square or quadrangular house 
there was successively devised a great variety of dwellings, especially 
thatched, solid huts with gabled roofs and of larger dimensions 
than the older types of habitation. This kind of abode, the first 
* firm ' house, appeared in Neolithic times during the so-called 
Campignian period. In living cultures it is the home of those 


simpler farming societies that are forced into a settled way of life 
by the necessity of waiting for the ripening of the crops they plant. 
In regions of mixed cultural influences the houses of agriculturists 
may assume many variegated forms, with oval or square ground 
plans, the latter occasionally with pyramidal roofs ; or they may be 
erected on trees or piles. For the first time there appears a strong 
emphasis on efforts to beautify the inner and outer appearance of the 
home. A greater variety of materials is used to insure the solidity 
of the structure. A few branches or wooden piles are no longer 


Miwok Indians, California 

After Schmidt-Koppers 

considered sufficient to build a house ; soil or clay or manure is 
skilfully blended with straw and grass and other binding materials 
to produce walls that are able to withstand the change of the seasons. 
The house, no longer a temporary shelter providing occasional pro- 
tection, begins to be filled with a greater wealth of belongings, 
and the increasing sedentariness of the dweller and owner creates 
the opportunity for community life. For the first time, larger 
groups of people dwell together permanently. Common interests 
and a generally more sociable attitude create the need for a public 
meeting place. This leads to the construction of community 
houses where the men hold 'conferences and where musicians and 
story-tellers entertain the entire tribe. 

A West African Pangwe man who marries immediately goes 
to work to build two houses : one as the main domain for his 
wife and children ; the other, a larger one, as an assembly house 


where he passes most of his time except for meals and night-time 
spent with his family. As the family grows the settlement grows 
with it, and is often so neat in appearance that Tessmann compares 
the individual homes with " doll houses, fresh from the box." 

Especially in Africa, the covering of the basic wooden structures 
with clay and similar materials has produced shapes of picturesque 
attractiveness. Among the master-builders of such homes are the 
Musgu of northern Merun. In the Niger region houses with a 
square ground-plan and a flat roof are preferred ; these have been 


Musgu, Cameroons, West Africa 
After G. Buschan 

adopted almost without any change by the high-culture peoples 
of Anatolia, Persia, and the central and north-western provinces of 
India. Even sun-dried bricks were used at an early date, although 
these primitive agriculturists who know the art of baked earthenware 
have not yet acquired the knowledge of the baked bricks. Clay 
as a building material also plays an important role in the house- 
building of many Central and North American Indians, among 
them the Navaho and the Pueblo. 

Human imagination applied to factors of climate and geography 
provides almost boundless variety to the homes of the agriculturists. 
Settlement near a lake shore or in swampy land has resulted in the 
construction of houses on piles. Pile houses, however, are also 
built in dry regions, but in such cases this construction is used 
for protection against hostile invaders. The pile houses of New 
Guinea, elevated four to ten feet or higher, are constructed in 
harmonious and spacious patterns. 


2 9 

Pile structures have been known to man since the dawn of time, 
as the remnants of the habitations of the prehistoric Lake Dwellers 
prove. They were built in Europe at a time when caves were still 
occasionally used for temporary quarters. Most famed among 
these ancient settlements are the homes of the Lake Dwellers who 
lived in a region comprising parts of modern Switzerland, Germany, 
and Italy during the Neolithic period. These homes even had their 
watch-dogs, the Canis familiaris palustris breed. The solid wooden 


Upper Nile 
After Bernatzik 

Batak, Sumatra 
After Gendreau 

floors show inlaid ornamentations of birch bark ; remains of bast 
mats have been found ; and many luxuries, preserved through the 
millenniums by favourable circumstances, testify to a high standard 
of living. Outside Europe the prehistoric builders constructed pile 
houses in Eastern Asia and in Indo-China. These houses were 
arranged in groups, usually in rows, just as they are to-day in the 
villages of the South Seas. In Borneo occasionally the whole village 
community dwells in a single house, which may extend for a length 
of more than one hundred yards. Similar ' great-houses ' be- 
longing to prehistoric times have been excavated in Europe, 
especially in the Ukraine. Long communal houses are the custo- 
mary living-quarters of many tribes in Indonesia and in South 
America, where they usually house an entire sib of as many as one 


hundred people. Or an entire village community may dwell in two 
or three such houses arranged round a central square. A Papuan 
house of New Guinea was two hundred feet long and forty feet 
wide. It was equipped " with a central hall, which runs the entire 
length of the house and is reserved for the use of men ; on either 
side are the walled-off rooms. These consist of three storeys. 
In the lowest of all the cooking is done, the middle one is for the 
women and children, and the top storey for the men/' 

Indian tribes of Alaska and British Colum- 
bia lived in houses " large enough to shelter 
two or three generations and two or more 
social classes. The house floor was arranged 
in concentric platforms, each succeeding 
platform two or three feet above the one 
beneath. Long and thick retaining slabs of 
hewn cedar formed the retaining walls of 
each platform/' Such homes of the Tlingit 
had picturesque names like * the-spot-that- 
looks - good/ * place - where - you - can - swim- 
PAINT- through/ * bear-man house/ etc., recalling 
the houses of mediaeval France whose names 
were derived from their painted posters like 
' House of the Grinning Jester/ ' House of 
the Jumping Fish/ and Balzac's immortal 
* House of the Ball-playing Cat/ 
The cliff dwellings of the Pueblo constitute another variety of 
the primitive house some of them resemble nothing so much 
as the sky-scrapers that tower above New York and are considered 
marvels of modern ingenuity. African counterparts of the Pueblo 
dwellings are the rock houses at Medinine in Tunisia which have 
carved-out rooms side by side. 

The structure of the Pueblo mesas and similar ancient structures 
like the Crimean cliff dwellings, the cone dwellings of Cappadocia, 
and the cavate lodges in Arizona, clearly indicate that a decisive 
motive of the villagers was defence against intruders or enemies. 
Where nature's rock formations have not fortified a place, man has 
done his best to build earthworks or similar protective devices. 
African villages are often surrounded by mighty walls or palisades, 
and most elaborate measures were taken for protection, especially 
during the times of the great slave hunts. In the old Sudan 
cultures houses were often completely subterranean. To-day 
most homes in the Niger region are sunk in the soil. The Banda 
of French Equatorial Africa build their houses in strategic locations, 



Tsimshian Indians 
North Pacific Coast 

After Boas 


to facilitate a close watch over the surrounding terrain. These 
houses are equipped with entrances so low that the visitor has to 
crawl on hands and knees into the * parlour.' In the eastern 
Mbamland of the Cameroons the remnants of the gigantic forti- 
fications erected by the Fullah, the Wute, and the Tikar speak a 
vivid language of the past. Their palisades had massive gates and 


The ancient town of Walpi 

American Museum of Natural History, New York 

strong clay walls up to twenty feet high, with embrasures through 
which the defenders hurled arrows and spears upon attackers. 

The tree houses of New Guinea can be reached only with the 
aid of rope-ladders which are pulled up during the night. Where 
doors or their primitive equivalents are known, mechanisms have 
been devised which make opening them a job for * insiders only/ 
* Latch-keys ' made of wood may assume such tremendous dimen- 
sions that no husband could possibly succeed in concealing one 
in his pocket when he goes out at night. 


If we judge the homes of primitive man from an aesthetic angle 
the peoples of Polynesia may well carry off the prize. The Maori 
of New Zealand, for instance, transform their square houses into 
impressive monuments of art. The canoe-shaped roofs, thatched 
with reed, grass, or palm leaves, are supported by carved pillars 
of exquisite beauty. A great variety of forms shows the high 
cultural level achieved by these islanders. From the simple, 
mat-covered huts of the common people to the artistically fashioned 

homes of the wealthy, a wide 
range of ornamental styles and 
construction is represented ; and 
the whara, or community house, 
is a treasure of artistic workman- 
ship and taste. Hawaii, Samoa, 
Niuafoo are names which stand 
for the finest architectural and 
artistic achievements reached by 
primitive man ; and the colossal 
stone statues of Easter Island 
and the prehistoric basalt ruins 
of Ponape still shrouded in 
mystery are remnants of by- 
gone grandeur. The pyramid- 
shaped * stages ' or storage houses 
of the Maori, on which food was 
piled in gigantic quantities for 
the convenience of the guests 
attending the hakari festivals, reached heights up to ninety feet, 
with bases thirty feet square supporting sides that tapered toward 
an apex. 

When the time had arrived that man began to record his own 
history the old high cultures were taking shape. Large groups of 
residents concentrated in communities which no longer had the 
appearance of mere villages. New and stronger tools permitted 
the use of the hewn stone for human dwellings and public buildings ; 
the palaces of the rich began to mark the differentiations of castes 
and classes the city was born. Wealth and power manifested them- 
selves in monuments of towering height, built as demonstrations 
of might for ages to come. 

The houses of the Aztecs of ancient Mexico varied from the 
branch-covered huts of the hot regions to the brick houses of the 
highlands, culminating in majestic temples and palaces. The houses 
of worship built by the Maya of Guatemala were even mightier. 


French Equatorial Africa 

After Daigre 



The buildings of these ancient peoples, erected for * eternity,' 
have never been surpassed. Even to-day the pyramids of the 
Egyptians still rank among the seven wonders of the world ; and 
we have not yet learnt to duplicate their art of cutting stones with 
such precision that they can be joined without mortar for ever- 
lasting durability. The 
temples of India and 
China and the ruins of 
Ur are evidences of such 
skill and wealth that our 
civilization of mechanized 
haste can but humbly ad- 
mire them. We have been 
equally unable to mix 
mortar of the quality used 
in the Roman viaducts, 
palaces, and monuments. 
Our present-day trowel is 
of the same shape as the 
Roman, because it is the 
perfect shape. 

From windbreak to pent- 
house, from tree hut to 
fortress the development 
of the buildings erected by 
the hand of man reads 
like a saga of might and 
intelligence. Yet even the 
most modern house in 
order to be habitable still 
depends on an elementary 
force which was given to 
earliest man by the gods. 
This eternal gift is fire. 

No home, no tribe, no human life, would have been possible 
without the blessings of fire, that mysterious brother to the sun. 
Its importance is so paramount in the human mind that there 
is no people on earth who does not have tales and sagas to explain 
its origin. It is considered so precious a treasure that many myths 
relate that man had to pilfer it from gods who were unwilling to 
share it with the mortals. According to the Greeks, Prometheus 
stole it from Zeus and suffered horrible punishment in consequence. 
To some primitive Australians, the thief was the wren, a tiny bird, 


Maori, New Zealand 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 


who brought the divine spark from heaven under its tail. Other 
Australian tribes believe that the fire was stolen from two super- 
humans who tried to withhold it from man ; or that a raven 
snatched it from the top of the digging stick of Karakaruk, one of 
the virgins later transported to the skies where she stands now in a 
cluster of stars known to the white man as the Pleiades. 

To many peoples with written and with unwritten histories 
fire is holy. In India the god of fire, Agni, is the messenger be- 
tween man and his gods who carries the sacrificed souls *from the 
alter of fire up to the immortals. The Parsee Zoroastrians worship 
the creator of the world by the symbol of fire, " because it is the most 
perfect symbol of the Deity, on account of its purity, brightness, 
activity, subtility, fecundity, and incorruptibility." The Germanit 
tribes honoured the element in their solstitial fires. In our own 
Bible God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and the Holy 
Ghost materialized in the form of a flame. Needless to say, the 
flowering imagination of primitive man has glorified the great 
phenomenon of fire by countless myths, many of them of stirring 
beauty and all revealing a sense of veneration. Maui, the Polynesian 
god-hero of the Maori who lifted their island from the sea, is also 
the bringer of the fire. The African Herero combine ancestor- 
worship with their worship of the holy fire which burns in the 
homestead of the oruzo or priest and is kept alive with sticks of 
the sacred Omumborombonga tree (Lombretum primigenuni), the 
dwelling-place of the ancestral souls. The girl who tends this holy 
fire must remain unmarried like the Roman Vestal Virgins. 
The life of this fire is identified with the life of the tribe. If a 
foreign chieftain gets hold of it he becomes the master and pro- 
tector of the Herero, as happened in 1850 when many Herero 
* took the fire ' of the Maherero and thereby became members of 
the latter tribe. 

In the hearth of each Buryat tent lives gali ezen y the fire spirit, 
who is " of human shape and only small in size while in the hearth. " 
No rubbish, dirt, or other refuse may be thrown into the fire 
this would insult his feelings. No knife or pointed tool must be 
used to stir the fire ; it might blind gali ezen and render him unable 
.to chase the evil spirits away from the hut. He receives sacrifices 
prior to all other gods. The fire is the property, nay, a part of the 
sib itself. No foreigner is allowed to take fire from the hearth, 
and if a visitor has lit his pipe while in a Buryat home he must 
empty it before he leaves. 

Numerous are the devices to kindle the precious element ; early 
ingenuity invented many methods to bring forth the revered spark. 



The Australians produce it by drilling, twirling, or rubbing a wooden 
stick on a wooden base or by * sawing ' a soft log with a boomerang 
of hard wood. When the chipped-off wooden particles begin to 
smoulder they are caught with tinder and fed with dry grass until 
a flame is produced. The fire-borer is a round stick which is 
twirled round within depressions made in another stick. The 
twirling continues until smoke appears in the sawdust, and the 




Twirling Fire 


Drilling Fire with Bow-drill 

tinder, after being gently blown on, breaks into a flame. Two 
bamboo splints serve as another type of fire-saw. One has a 
groove surrounded by tinder, the other is moved back and forth 
along the groove in a saw-like motion. The Polynesian fire-grater 
is another variety, consisting of a piece of pointed hardwood with 
which a softer log is rubbed until the sawdust begins to smoulder. 
The distribution of the drilling method is world-wide from 
the African Bushmen to the North and South American Indians. 
Ingenious variations are the cord drill, the bow drill, and the 
' pump ' drill of the North American Indians, with strings and 
spindles serving to mechanize the arduous labour of drilling. 


The so-called fire-plough method, which is the rubbing of a 
lengthwise-notched stick with another stick, is customary among 
the peoples of Borneo, Polynesia, and Micronesia, and is also 

referred to in the creation myth of the 
Phoenicians. Other variations of the fire- 
saw are used by the Malays and by the 
natives of New Guinea. Even primitive 
1 lighters ' are known, involving the still 
unchanged operation of creating" sparks by 
striking stone or metal against stone. This 
practice is customary with the Eskimo 
because scarcity of dry wood in icebound 
regions necessitates the use of other 
materials, and among many South Ameri- 
can tribes. More ingenious is the fire- 
pump of India and Borneo. It consists 
of a wooden cylinder in which a piece of 
tinder is compressed with a closely fitting 
piston which is stroked up and down until 
sparks are produced. 

Such primitive methods of producing 
TINDER BOX, FASHIONED fire have survived the ages, as our modern 
FROM ARMADILLO TAIL Boy Scouts know. Like to-day's primitive 
Tapiete and Toba Indians peoples, prehistoric man depended upon 

After NordenskiVld ^ m ' In the ice - a gf. S r * ves of northern 
Europe pyrites and nmt have been found 

side by side. The Romans discovered the fire-creating qualities 

of sulphur, and used it in combination with their fire-stones. It 

was not until about 1650 that chemical lighters, operating on a 

combination of phosphorus and sulphur, 

made their first appearance. Almost two 

hundred years later, around 1820, the 

first * phosphdric bottles/ complete with 

sulphur-treated matches, were sold in 

London ; S. Jones's ' Lucifer matches ' 

and later improvements quickly followed. 

Next to the sheltering roof, the fire 
has been since the dawn of time the main 
element in the conception of * home.' 
It gave the human touch to the mere 

shelter or abode ; it is the mark of homo sapiens, however 
primitive his belongings, because no animal has ever been able 
to control or maintain this blessed gift. When nostalgia besets 


Geelvink Bay, New Guinea 

After Wood 


us far from home it is the fireplace that we most frequently recall 
as the symbol of its pleasantest associations. 

To primitive man fire may mean the difference between life 
and death. It is no wonder that he tries to keep fire alive under 
all circumstances, to have it always available. If it threaten^ to 
die out blow-pipes and fire-fans rekindle it in Indian homes ; 
bellows are used in Africa. Even on trips and excursions fire is 
carried along. The Eastern Bolivian Noeze carry packages of 
smouldering particles of the motacu flower carefully wrapped in 
moist pataju leaves. Many South American tribes maintain 
regular * filling stations ' containing stores of smouldering tinder 


Santa Cruz Islands 

After Wood 

under ashes in specially erected rain-protected huts at the cross-roads 
of jungle paths, so that the passers-by can readily obtain the precious 
element, which they cannot easily kindle in the humid primeval 
forest. When Albert Schweitzer told some West African natives 
about European forest fires they laughed. The woods are wet like 
sponges how can they burn ? 

The fire in the middle of the tent, in the hut, or in the house is 
the centre of all home life, the source of warmth, the creator of 
palatable food, the inspiring flame which brings olden tales to life 
and draws the family circle closer. At night it is the keeper of 
warmth and the friendly protector against tropical insects. 

The roof and the fire are the two fundamental elements in the 
notion * home/ but no man has been content throughout time to 
satisfy only his most fundamental needs. For comfort and for an 
expression of his individual desires he has devised furnishings 
for the home. 

A child of nature sleeps in a way most comfortably suited to the 
prevailing climate. The earliest bed of man was the simple 


floor-covering of fresh twigs and branches. Coverings of animal 
skins are used in Tierra del Fuego and in many North American 
regions ; the warmer climates of Australia and South Africa allow 
much scantier coverings or permit people to dispense with them 


Kafirs, South Africa 

After Wood 

altogether. Sleeping naked in wood ashes is preferred by many 
African tribes as a healthy practice which protects the body from 
cold and insects. Most Pacific and Southern Asiatic tribes sleep on 
neatly woven mats. In Polynesia the number and age of the mats 
in a household determine the wealth of its owner. 


Mamberamo, New Guinea 
After Wood 

The first ' pillow ' is a head-rest which may assume any imagin- 
able shape from a crude log to the artistically carved square bench 
that supports and protects the complicated native coiffures. In 
Africa and South America it has developed into a richly carved 
little stool, a handsome piece of * interior decoration.' 

A regular bed in our sense combines the conception of a resting 
place with elevations above the floor-level. Such forerunners 
of the modern bed are the sleeping benches of clay or soil along 
the inner walls of houses common in West Africa and the Sudan, 



as well as among the Indians of the American north-west coast. 
Platform-shaped beds of wood, occasionally covered with very 
comfortable plaited * mattresses/ 
are used by many primitive 
South American jungle house- 
holds, and are also common in 
Africa. They are a very ancient 
invention, regarded as even older 
than another famed primitive 
sleeping device, the hammock, 
which seamen still recognize as 
thoroughly practical and comfort- 
able. Hammocks were developed 
in New Guinea and especi- 
ally among the South American 
tribes of the tropical East. Woven 
of plant fibres, they criss-cross 


Supposed to represent figure of 


Guarani Indians, East Paraguay 
After P. F. Midler 

the living-room of the huts " like the liana twists " outdoors in the 



Wood carving, decorated with cowrie shells and glass beads 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

woods. As a protection against insects, many kinds of primitive 
mosquito-nets have been invented. Among the Guato Indians 


nets have the shape of a wide sack woven of tucum-leaf fibres, 
and are suspended so that the opening is over the sleeper's face. 
The Nor- Papua of New Guinea fashion whole sleeping-bags of 
long kirfin grass. These bags are highly desired trade objects 
among the islanders. 

The average primitive household does not include tables and chairs 
as necessary items of furniture. The family members prefer 
to sit on mats or animal skins or on the bare soil, occasionally 
on rc^ks and logs. Simple stools and benches are found among 
the aborigines of South America and Africa. The possession of 
a chair is certainly not regarded as an addition to comfort. When 
the idea of dignity and the desire to feel superior, even physically, 

possess the mind, the chair becomes a 
medium of elevation ; the higher rank 
of a person is visibly expressed by en- 
throning him on a magician's or chief - 
WOODEN BOWL tain's stool. This is especially customary 

Santa Cruz Islands in the Dark Continent, where chieftains' 
Museum of Ethnology, stools, painstakingly carved, are among 
Cologne the finest manifestations of African 

sculptural art. Precious cowrie shells 

and glass beads are often used to decorate thrones, some of them 
completely covered with thousands of blue and white glass beads 
under which the magnificent carvings are completely concealed. 

But even without heavy furniture, the primitive home impresses 
the visitor by its general air of comfort and by the presence of 
essential things which contribute to the happiness of family life 
within the general framework of its cultural level. And utility is 
not the only consideration ; sense of colour and form and good taste 
characterize the furnishings of even the simplest home, from the 
ochre-painted wooden containers and handsomely ornamented 
string bags of the Australians to the beautiful pottery and artistic 
spoons and ladles of Africa. The magnificently carved bowls and 
head-rests of the South Seas are some of the proudest possessions 
of our museums. 

The more settled a tribe, the more time can be spent by its 
members in beautifying the inner and outer walls of houses with 
painted or carved ornaments. The totem-poles and house fronts 
of the Alaskans, the African wooden and clay reliefs, and especially 
the carved panels of Polynesian homes furnish outstanding examples 
of such peculiar artistic perfection that modern sculptors have often 
attempted in vain to imitate the workmanship, subtle colouring, 
and exotic designs of these ornaments. 


Even the households of prehistoric man were furnished with 
luxuries, including artistically shaped and ornamented spoons, 
needles, stone knives, carving tools, drills, spindles, and planes. 
Neolithic lamps are the prototypes of the oil-lamps of classic 
Pompeii and Rome. As a purely aesthetic expression, male and 
female and animal figures were carved or painted on walls during 
the Aurignacian period ; statuettes of ivory graced some rooms. 
Besides the earliest manifestations of great religious art preserved 
in the magic animal paintings of the palaeolithic caves of Spain and 
Southern France, we find equally numerous expressions of early 
applied art in the ornamented containers, tools, combs, and dishes 
of millenniums ago. Whole cultural stages of the Neolithic 
period have been named after the ornamental designs found on 
the pottery of its artisans. 

Although not all living tribes have pottery or earthenware in 
their kitchen corners, because some have not advanced far enough 
to learn the secrets of their manufacture, all peoples use containers 
of some kind, whether for gathering, cooking, or storage. The 
storage of water is most important because it enables a people to 
move about freely without being bound to a near-by spring or 
river. But the very primitive have not readily found means 
of storing water. When, for example, the girls and women of 
Tierra del Fuego fill their primitive leather bags or bark pails 
with water, they have to hasten homewards because the containers 
leak so quickly. The Australians use natural rock pits or hollow 
stones to store water. The birch-bark containers of the primitive 
Labrador Indians are much more practical : sewn together and 
caulked with resin, they are as waterproof as the Labrador canoes 
which are similarly constructed. While travelling, these Indians 
use folded water-cups of birch bark held together by wooden pins. 

In the Malayan Archipelago hollow sections of cane and bamboo 
are favourite water-containers. The Indians of Eastern Paraguay 
store water in pumpkin shells and in the thick sections of the 
tacua rusu bamboo, whose long stems they also use for portable 
containers by removing the nodes and drilling several drinking- 
holes into the cane. Parts of the same bamboo serve as very 
practical kettles which can be used many times before the bottoms 
become too charred. Coconut or gourd shells are widely used as 
water-containers also. Another ancient type of water-container 
is the sewn bag of animal skins found in India and in the Sahara. 

Even the most primitive tribes are very resourceful in devising 
household containers. For example, the Australians make orna- 
mented wooden bowls and finely woven string bags to hold the 



Magdalenian epoch 


Uganda After Haberlandt 



Santa Cruz Islands Montagnais-Naskapi Indians 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne Collection Julius E. Lips 



fruits and plants they collect as food. Plates and platters of leaves, 
shells, or wood can be found wherever a primitive family lives. 
Ladles, which are older than spoons, are often artfully ornamented 
and of exquisite shapes. 

If we had a magic carpet to carry us safely to the isolated abodes 
within the hidden corners of the world we should find among 
primitive households scenes of peaceful comfort. 

In the birch-bark or caribou-skin Indian tents which dot the 
vast hunting-grounds in the interior of Labrador the smoke of 
the home fire emerges through the smoke hole 
at the apex of the conical structure. Inside, 
broth boils in the caribou-belly * pot/ a beaver- 
tail roasts on large wooden skewers, and the 
pemmican mixture of bear grease and preserved 
blueberries stands ready in a covered container 
of ornamented birch bark. Round baskets of 
the same pleasant brown- and white-coloured 
pattern hold banok, the Indian bread. When 
the wooden spoons are washed and the huskies 
have retired to beds dug in the snow outside 
the Naskapi family reclines on the balsam- 
covered floor near precious bundles of mink 
and marten, lynx, musk-rat, and silver fox 
which will be brought down to the Hudson's 
Bay Company post during the next spring to 
pay for the following winter's supplies. The 
fire is carefully tended ; the baby cradle of 
appliqued leather swings slowly in the dim light of the northern 
night ; hunting-charms dangle from the wall ; and the young 
may dream of the venerable grandfather, the Bear, while their 
father prays to the Man of the North that he may have mercy and 
not send a new blizzard to cover the tracks of the game and the 
trail to the traps. 

Farther north, the Eskimos lie down to sleep under a dome of 
snow. Reindeer, bear, and musk-ox skins neatly cover the snow 
platform of the beds ; the hunting knives have been cleaned ; the 
dogs, still munching on bones, lie down in the entrance passage ; 
the seal-oil glows in the fifty-pound lamp of soap-stone Utkusik- 
saligmiut that provides the cooking and the heating warmth, and 
from which a whole people once took its name. 

Peace is in the Indian huts of California. The flaked, smooth- 
handled stone knife lies in the kitchen corner ; finely woven coiled 
baskets stand ready for the gathering of the wild acorns ; alongside 



After K. Weule 



them are mortars of cotton-wood and pestles of stone and specimens 
of the crudely coiled pottery preserved from former generations. 

In the so-called * savage ' world housing is no problem ; rent- 
demanding landlords and complaints from lodgers are unknown ; 
kindness and gaiety, contentment and mutual assistance govern 
life in contrast to the painful uncertainties of 'civilized' living. 
Wherever we pay our visit among the primitives, we find a like 
nearness to the gods and a like peace of mind. 

The homes of the Paft* and the Chiripa, which lie in the jungles 

of Eastern Paraguay, present with 
their one-room combination of 
parlour, kitchen, and bedroom an 
equally appealing appearance. 
Under the great hammock, made 
of either red - dyed bromelia, 
cotton, or cocoa fibres, which is 
reserved for the master of the 
house, lies the comfortable palm- 
leaf mat for his wife. Low stools 
fashioned in animal shapes stand 
about. The parrot, an indis- 
pensable family pet, chatters from 
his stand. Typycha, the broom, 
is never missing ; the pounded 
earth floors are clean. A practical 
shelf hangs from the roof to pro- 
tect food supplies and kitchen 
tools from ants and dogs. A sharp-bladed knife of tacuarembo 
bark lies ready for the housewife. 

Greater wealth is found in the typical home of the agricultural 
regions of Africa, where iron tools, niultiformed covered baskets, 
colourful woven mats, baked pottery, and scores of additional 
gadgets make up the variety of material possessions. 

The community house of the Pangwe is equipped with benches 
all along its walls. Day and night the fire throws its light on the 
drums and on the whetstone dangling from the roof and the great 
hunting net used for the communal battues. Animal skulls, the 
hunting trophies, decorate the room. The blacksmith's dug-out 
workshop with his bellows and fire-fan are often part of the equip- 
ment of the community house. In the family home three corners 
are occupied by the sleeping benches, with the fireplace at the 
narrow side of the room. Shelves for dishes and clothes-dryers are 
conveniently arranged ; boards for drying and roasting peanuts 


Pangwe, West Africa 
After G. Tessmann 



are kept under a large wooden storage box which may be likened 
to a pantry. The women's long baskets are hung on the walls, and 
a three-legged round stool waits for the guest of honour. Grinding 
slabs with pestles, fibre and wooden plates and bowls, ladles of all 
shapes different for men and women calabashes, and brooms 
complete the equipment of the well-organized home. When festive 
occasions lure the dancers to the village square torches of raffia 
produce a strong and romantic light. 

West Africa 

Calabash Ladle 

Ladle for the Use 
of Men 

Pot Ladle 

After G. Tessmann 

In the beautiful Polynesian homes the harmony of the interior 
decoration measures up to the splendour of the carved and painted 
exteriors. On Ponape the spaces between the carved pillars are 
walled with bamboo sticks so richly corded with multi-coloured 
cocoa strings that the wood is completely hidden. The black, 
red, and blue cords form intricate wall patterns, and are trimmed 
with tassels and shells. Even the bamboo floor over the stone 
foundation is covered with cocoa cordings. The fireplace is a 
square in the middle of the room. Sleeping mats, calabashes 
of polished coconut shells, nut graters, stone mortars and pestles, 
and many other tools and pieces of household equipment are 
tastefully arranged. Finely ornamented baskets contain shell 
knives and tools of coral and fish-skin ; spears, paddles, orna- 
mented clubs, and the women's weaving tools adorn the walls. 
Not the smallest trace of refuse or dust is tolerated. Exquisite 
curtains separate the sleeping - quarters from the living - room, 


and the carved head-rests are of a variety of woods, often with 
bamboo feet. The exquisitely shaped wooden bowls and dishes 
are richly decorated, and the soft tapa cloth of curtains and clothing 
shows hand-painted patterns. Fans and fly- whisks add further 
touches of luxury. 

The homes of the high cultures of the New and the Old Worlds 
have absorbed, adopted, and transformed most of the possessions 
and inventions of earlier times. They have improved on them 
through precise methods of manufacture and professional specializa- 
tion, which the primitive builder and craftsman could not develop. 

Examples of sheer luxury are found in the remains of homes 
older than the earliest records of our history. The excavations of 
prehistoric sites at Abu Shahrein, the old Eridu, brought to light 
carefully smoothed floors, and doors with hinges fashioned from 
stones imported from distant regions. Deep cellars and round 
windows can be traced back to the so-called * band-ceramic ' period 
of the Neolithicum. The houses of the oldest Anau culture were 
built of sun-dried bricks and were also equipped with hinged doors. 

Wherever scientists uncover ruins of ancient temples or palaces 
built at the dawn of history, astounding evidences of supreme 
luxury are found, examples of a standard of living unknown to 
modern civilization. In 1946 Russian scientists found in Southern 
Siberia near the Chinese border the remnants of a Chinese palace 
constructed before the birth of Christ : it was filled with treasures 
of overwhelming perfection. The main hall of this palace of Kha- 
kassia covers an area of about 140 square yards. Two kinds of tiles 
cover the roof, on which there are round medallions with Chinese 
inscriptions. The massive bronze door-handles display horned 
genii. Clamps, bolts, bronze buckles, golden earrings, and jade 
saucers were uncovered in the ruins. A furnace with a built-in 
tubular heating system distributed warmth throughout the building. 
Modern architects still try in vain to imitate the Roman method of 
heating the floors of houses from beneath ; equally advanced heating 
methods have been known in Korea for centuries. The magnifi- 
cence of the excavations of the Babylonian Ur, to-day El Mukajjar 
(many of the finest specimens recovered from these sites are 
exhibited in the British Museum), make our modern artisans 
wonder whether they will ever be able to reach the perfection 
attained during the third millennium before Christ. 

It is one of the ironies of history that the white man who adopted 
the ideas of the primitives to adjust them to his needs has often 
changed them so much that the aborigines of our time have difficulty 
in recognizing their purpose. When a native of the Belgian Congo 



heard a white man whistle on a key he mistook the gadget for a 
musical instrument and carved key-shaped flutes of ivory for his 
tribesmen, so that they might share the latest European invention. 
A crude white man's kitchen ladle, mended with an iron screw, 


Belgian Congo 
Royal Conservatoire of Music, Brussels 

impressed another Congo native so profoundly that he carved one 
for himself just like it but in one piece, with the screw and the 
mending so neatly imitated that even the lower tip of the screw 
protruded from the * mended ' part. 


Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm 

When something goes wrong with any of our household tools 
we tend to act as if the object showed malice. It is by no means 
a new idea that at times the things created by man to lighten his 
daily drudgery get out of hand and that he may lose his control 
over them. Similar was the fear of the sorcerer's apprentice who 
stammered, " How can I get rid of the spirits I called up myself !" 
Atomic power, that supreme triumph of modern science which 
snatched from the Builder of the Universe the secret of His suns and 
planets, has already reared up so threateningly that the whole 
world fears the consequences of our enlightenment. 


This ancient human fear of the potential dangers of the things 
made by man himself induced an old Peruvian artist to paint a 
pictorial story of " The Revolution of the Tools " on a vase of the 
Protochimu epoch. The lower border of the design, depicting 
waves and fish and seals, indicates that the rising of the objects 
against their human exploiters took place at the sea-coast. Only 
three human figures are shown, two of them prisoners in chains, the 
third under attack. The rest of the characters are things, led by a 
cudgel which threatens the man in the centre ; . the rebels are belts 
and head-dresses, slings, catapults, helmets, purses, and pieces 


From a Clay Vase 

Valle de Chicama, Peru 

After W. Krickeberg 

of jewellery. Now that their day of revolt against their employers 
and suppressors has dawned, they are ready to take revenge against 
his presumptuousness. All this is in accordance with an old 
Quiche myth which predicts that the day will come when dogs 
and chickens, pots and pans, and grinding slabs will make man taste 
the hardships to which he habitually submits them the slabs will 
grind their human inventors ; the pots will boil them ; the chicken 
slaughter them ; the pans will roast them. This has happened 
before, says the saga, and it will happen again. 

Long, long ago the sun disappeared and the world was shrouded 
in complete darkness for five long days. This was the signal for 
the things to mobilize. The stones began to grind, the mortars and 
pestles marched against their masters, and even the llamas attacked 
their keepers in the stables as well as in the fields. 

Look around you, all-knowing homo-sapiens. Be kind to the 
things which serve you. Handle them gently they might resent 
rough treatment. Appreciate the never-ceasing readiness of the 
gadgets you devised to serve you. 


Accessories of Allure 

HERE COME THE JEZEBELS ! The preacher of a small New 
York sect thus greeted the appearance of two visiting ladies 
who, fond of occasional * on-the-spot ' investigations, had ferreted 
out his * church' in the big city's 
reservoir of human oddities. The 
worshippers, following with their 
eyes the accusing finger of their 
prophet, watched the smartly 
made-up though utterly discreet 
intruders blush it was a most 
embarrassing situation ! 

Later this little incident fur- 
nished the material for a long 
discussion, and the question arose : 
why is it that some people associ- 
ate the idea of ' sin ' with a well- 
groomed woman ; why do they 
ascribe low character to a " female 
who paints her face " ? Is the idea 
of enhancing artificially the charms 
of nature really so alien to the 

* unspoiled ' human mind ? 

It was not so some ten thousand 
years ago, and it is not to-day in 
many sectors of the world where 
peoples who never heard the term 

* cosmetics ' still follow the ancient 

rules of allure for the sake of aesthetic joy and for hygienic and 
spiritual reasons. When it comes to the display of taste ' savages ' 
have a very definite notion of what they consider attractive and 
what not, and they miss no opportunity to express their taste 
freely. Men and women alike take part in the general effort to 
give to their bodies and their clothing the touch of beauty ; and 
while man in modern civilization has been forced into a subdued 
attitude as far as his vanity is concerned, his brethren of the 
wilderness openly compete with the charms of the fair sex and 
often even surpass them. 

While in Western civilization the variations of taste are extremely 



American Museum of Natural 
History, New York 


numerous, these variations are even more pronounced among the 
different races and tribes of primitive peoples who set for them- 
selves their own standards of attractiveness and are not easily 
persuaded to copy their neighbours' fads. 

An insight into the prerequisites of attractiveness as conceived 
by, for instance, the Maori, was furnished by Elsdon Best, who 
states that, in order to be considered good-looking, a girl has to 
have " shapely legs with a well-poised body, a comely junction of 
the trunk with the buttocks, and a straight-legged, erect carriage " ; 
while male beauty, according to the Maori women, consists of 
" a stalwart, mature aspect, with well-shaped body, handsome 
face not too wide, large eyes that look with a mild expression 
upon man." In addition, such an Adonis must be " kind, with 
shapely loins." This is not too far from our own, the Greek 
ideal of beauty. In contrast to this, the Koreans, a high-cultured 
people, feel differently, especially concerning * Greek '-shaped 
faces, and they ran away in horror when the Second World War 
brought them in contact with their liberators, the American soldiers, 
who, to them, were " giants with big noses." Many North 
American Indians, like the Hopi, expect a beautiful girl to whiten 
her face with corn-meal and to wear her hair in butterfly whorls. 
There is nothing vague about such conceptions, which all testify 
to the fact that at all levels of culture man created his own laws 
of beauty. But beyond such detailed specifications we notice 
among the children of nature one point on which everybody seems 
to agree : the fact that cleanliness is the basis of all good looks. 
There is no well-bred savage who would abuse the iron rules of 
bodily hygiene. The admonition, " You wash like a white man ! " 
(who often, while living among ' primitives/ cleans merely his face 
and hands) is, indeed, one of the worst insults a savage can hurl 
against any of his tribesmen. 

Whoever has lived among primitive tribes will report on their 
great neatness. O'Connell, who shared the life of the natives of 
Ponape for a long time, stresses this point by saying that they 
bathe two or three times a day and that anyone who neglects this 
healthy custom " loses his social standing. He will be expulsed 
and left in shame." Equally strict are the Creek Indians in their 
observance of at least a daily bath in a river (and four rolls in the 
snow during winter). How strongly this custom prevailed among 
the Indians was emphasized by the old explorer Adair, who re- 
marks : " The neglect of this bath hath been deemed so heinous a 
crime, that they have raked the legs and arms of the delinquent 
with snake's teeth." 


Numerous reports and testimonies of explorers emphasize this 
happy-to-be-clean attitude of savage peoples wherever water 
is available. But even where water is scarce, as, for instance, 
in the Sahara Desert, the natives take care of the proper cleansing 
of their bodies by subjecting themselves to the hygienic effects of 
the desert sands. In the arctic and subarctic regions of the globe, 
where an extremely cold climate makes it difficult to clean the body, 
primitive man invented the steam bath. For this special purpose 
they construct bath-houses in which stones are first heated and water 
poured upon them to produce the steam. After reclining in the 


With cardium shell used as scraper 

Marken Islands 

After Parkinson 

dense steam the bathers often finish up with a quick jump into the 
cold running water of their creeks and rivers. Sometimes such a 
' Turkish ' bath can accommodate many persons, while in other 
instances small cabins for one or two steam bathers are preferred. 
Even sick people undergo this cure in the hope of getting rid of 
their fever, often with the magic assistance of the medicine-man's 
songs and prayers. The modern Scandinavian sportsmen whose 
countries have preserved the ancient custom of this type of steam 
bathing ascribe much of their physical vigour to its beneficial effects. 
The frequent exposure of the skin to hot steam and cold water 
and, in tropical climates, to the surging rays of the sun necessitated 
a regular care of the exposed parts of the human body. Conse- 
quently, there is practically no tribe on earth whose members 
would not make use of fats and oils and greases to smooth, cleanse, 
and lubricate their skins. The calabash or coconut-shell oil-pot 
is, therefore, the regular stand-by for both sexes, who rub them- 
selves with * cold cream * as often as they can. Some African 


tribes use the oil of the raffia palm-tree exclusively for beauty 
purposes, since most insects are allergic to it. In the South Seas 
the most widespread provider of greasy lotions is the cocoa palm, 
which to-day furnishes the skin preparations of our own fashionable 
ladies with their most effective ingredient. Ingenious methods are 
applied by the natives to split and grate the coconut with the help of 
adequate tools. Some submit the minced substance to a process 
of fermentation under the sun, by which the oil is segregated and can 
easily be removed for further use in cosmetic blendings. 

Such mixtures, with palm oil, castor oil, lard grease, or even 
butter as their basic ingredients, may contain redwood, ginger- 
root, herbs, or metallic powders, most of which have proved their 
protective qualities not only against sunburn or insect bites but 
also, as many explorers indicate, against the influences of cold 
weather and rough winds. These pastes may cover parts of the 
skin or even the entire body, and it has been reliably reported that 
this original protection of the skin of many tribes has been far 
more beneficial to the health of its users than the cheap cotton 
garments which were later forced upon the natives by shrewd 
4 civilised ' merchants. 

The mixture of colour and greases to produce a cosmetic and 
hygenic stand-by is very widespread, especially among Australian 
and African tribes, who enjoy its double function as a remedy and as 
a decorative medium. 

Colour plus grease ? Well, isn't this the correct description also 
of all the grease paints found in our own boudoirs and our theatrical 
dressing-rooms? Indeed, this brings us right back to * the Jezebels/ 
The art of ' making up ' with grease paint can by no means be 
attributed to * modern decadence ' or to the frivolous whims of 
the moment. Long before any records of written history were 
started men and women alike were conscious of the attractiveness of 
selected colours blended with the human skin ; and they knew 
how to find, to recognize, and to prepare them for their own use 
as cosmetic aids. Even the very strict territorial laws of certain 
tribes who allow no trespassing include occasionally one concession : 
that neighbouring or even foreign tribes may cross the protected 
tribal land on their excursions to obtain the * vital * colours w r hich 
may be found only at one or more far-away places. 

The cave-man and his cave-woman went out in search of these 
colours, as remains of ice-age colour mines prove. They had 
their own formulas for the blending of the colours with different 
greasy substances for their * dressing- table,' exactly as do to-day's 
children of the wilderness. The discoveries of the palaeolithic sites 


have preserved these cosmetic colours of the ice age, ready- mixed 
in ornamented bone or slate containers, with palettes and pestles 
for their handling. Practically all former homesteads of palaeolithic 
man show abundant supplies of these cosmetics ; and even the dead 
in their graves were provided with generous quantities of grease- 
blended colours, to be taken along on the long journey to the land 
of the departed. In later periods of human history, from the 
Neolithic Age on, these evidences of early vanity became extremely 
numerous ; and more surprising even than their abundance is the 
variety of shades. Manuel Dechelette's analyses of the prehistoric 
deposits reveal seventeen different colours, with white (marly 
limestone), black (charcoal and manganese ores), and the ochre scale, 
from red and orange to the lightest yellow, as the favourites. 


West African 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

These colours and their raw materials correspond exactly to 
those used in many primitive cultures of our days. The beauti- 
fully carved masks of the Gazelle Peninsula and other Melanesian 
regions show predominantly the three colours of red, white, and 
black, with some occasional touches of blue and green obtained 
from vegetal substances. Other shadings and mixtures have been 
added by other tribes, but all attribute special significance or give 
definite preference to one colour or the other. 

However, the specific symbolic significance attributed by us 
to certain colours may have entirely different meaning to primitive 
peoples. Thus, white is, to the Pangwe, by no means the colour 
of purity but, on the contrary, the colour of evil, as evidenced by its 
importance in the ' bad ' lunar rites ; but at the same time it is 
regarded as a most beautiful colour. It is followed in preference 
by black, " the colour of the night and of all that is disagreeable, 
frightening, and horrible/' while the joyous red symbolizes all the 
good things of life. These tribes also distinguish lilac as the colour 
of the dead ; all plants with lavender blooms contain the word 


kun or bokun (soul) in their native names ; and the bluish shadows 
of the trees mark them as the favourite abode of the departed. 
Beauty is often identified with the ' demonic ' white. They show 
no admiration for the plumage of their magnificently multicoloured 
birds, but the plain white heron, Bubulcus ibis, excites them by its 
" overwhelming beauty." In contrast to this, the sombre black 
is, to the Atxuabo of Portuguese East Africa, " the colour of joy/' 

Often the vocabularies of primitive peoples show, by their terms 
for colours, the variety of shades they distinguish. The Chama 
of eastern Peru know yellow, * blue-and-green ' (one word), purple, 
and * banana-orange ' ; while the Sipaia Indians have individual 
expressions for red, yellow, orange, dark blue to dark green, light 
blue and light green, brown, grey, black, and white. 

The habit of attributing symbolic meanings to certain colours has 
entered the religious and profane conceptions of all high cultures, 
including our own. In the ancient Aztec codices the four quarters 
of the globe were indicated by individual colours, with red for the 
East, blue for the West, yellow for the North, and green for the 
South ; while ancient Chinese and Iranians assigned blue to the 
East, red to the South, white to the West, and black to the North. 
The demons in the Lama temples of Tibet are always red ; most 
of the Tibetan gods sit on red lotus lilies, with the white flower 
reserved for Chanrasig, the highest Boddhisatva, and the blue for 
Tara, the ' madonna ' of Lamaism. Even each element has there 
its own symbolic colour : wood is green, fire is red, the earth is 
yellow, iron is white, and the water is blue. Every syllable of their 
famed prayer, the OM MANI PADME HUM (" O you jewel in the 
lotus, amen ! "), has its own colouring. OM, symbolizing the skies, 
is white ; MA, symbolizing the word of the asuras, is blue ; Ni, 
symbolizing the world of man, is yellow ; PAD, symbolizing the 
animal world, is green ; ME, symbolizing the world of the pretas, 
is red ; with the concluding holy HUM, which bars the gates to the 
hells, conceived as black. 

Numerous are the analogies in other high cultures like Egypt, 
India, and China. The same applies to the colour symbolism of 
our Christian ritual with the holiday or mourning decoration of 
the churches in red, white, green, purple, black, etc., and the 
carefully prescribed colourful regalia of the members of the Catholic 
clergy. And even in our daily figures of speech we use colour 
symbolisms, although of different content, when we speak of * the 
green-eyed monster/ 'a blue Monday/ * the reds/ or * clad in 
the colour of innocence/ while our governments publish * blue 
books/ ' white papers,' and * black lists/ 


The spectrum of primitive man is, as we saw, not so manifold, 
but he certainly knows how to make the most of his favourite 
colours. It was reported in early times the American Indians 
painted their skins red, and consequently they were called * red- 
skins ' by the old pale-faces. This custom often included even 
babies and infants. Red and black minerals used for the pig- 
ments were often carried about in small painted deerskin pouches. 
The Nor-Papua of New Guinea cherish the red kekevak colour, 
which they burn and mix with coconut oil to use always on their 
bodies. For face, arms, and legs they prefer a yellow earth from 
the Sepik ; for breast and thighs a white colour, which they gain 
from near a sulphur spring, is fashionable. 

Tradition may prescribe different colour fashions for the two 
sexes, and even different ways of applying the paint. This is 
the case among the Miskito and Sumu Indians of the Atlantic 
side of Honduras and Nicaragua, whose women choose for their 
fancy patterns paint from the red seeds of Eixa orellana L. y a 
shrub or small tree, while the men do not bother with intricate 
designs but simply cover all exposed parts of their physique with 
a black melted gum over which they apply a coat of turpentine. 
Red is also the favourite colour of the eastern Bolivian Tirinie women 
who paint their entire faces, with the exception of nose and eyelids, 
with vivid urucu, which the Neoze women of the same region merely 
use on cheeks and forehead. The Papagonians mix their black, 
red, and white earth colours with marrow and apply them thickly 
to their bodies * as a protection from the surging wind ' ; and the 
South African Bantu, like many Australian aborigines, use fat salves 
mixed with ochre. African shepherd peoples often use cow 
droppings or even the urine of cows as a blending material for their 
paints ; their belief in the hygienic qualities of the latter goes so 
far that many of them hurry to wash their hands in the warm 
jet when it appears under a cow, and insist on using it as an 

Again and again we find an ardent preference for red, manifold 
as its raw materials may be. The Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, 
who refrain from using this beloved shade on their skin, nevertheless 
declared during my visit in Labrador that no colour on earth could 
be compared with the magnificence of red, which they mine as 
vermilion for the decoration of their tools, canoes and clothing. 

Many high cultures have maintained this ancient preference. 
The Hindu women of to-day still dot their foreheads with red 
hum kum powder, and the Mohammedan world depends largely 
on the use of Lawsonia inermis, the leaves and stems of the henna 


shrub, to achieve red colour accents as an expression of good 
grooming, beauty, and happiness. 

That allegedly very modern accessory of allure the lipstick, 



Figure from 

the Grottoes 

of Lespugue, 

Haute Garonne, 


After Le Comte 
de St Pc'rier 

Dancing Women 
Rock Painting from Cogul, Spain 

The " Venus of 

Ice-age Figure 
of Carved 

Na turhistorisches 



which also is red actually dates back to the ice age. Specimens 
of * convenient size ' and pointed at the top have been found in 
many prehistoric caves. For countless ages lipsticks have served 
to deepen the colour of women's * rose lips/ 

From the earliest times geometrical patterns served to accentuate 
even more the favourite colours and the taste of their wearers. 


Such painted designs may or may not indicate special qualities 
like membership in a particular tribe, the coming of age, social 
standing, bravery, and the like. Even the bones of the dead are 
occasionally exhumed and decorated with intricate ornamentations, 
and many uncovered prehistoric manifestations of plastic art, like, 
for instance, the famed " Venus of Willendorf," still show signs of 
painted patterns in red. That this habit prevailed also during 
classic times is evidenced by the ornamented arms of the Phrygian 
woman with child on a vase in the British Museum and by the report 


GIRL Yao, East Africa Thompson Indians 

Gran Chaco 
After R. Karsten After K. Weule After J. A. Teh 

of Ammianus Mercellinus (A.D. 330-400) on the Agathyrsians, who 
painted body and hair in blue. 

The striking effect of painted patterns on the human skin inspired 
the idea of frightening the enemy with this * psychological * weapon. 
Caesar was duly impressed by the blue war paint of the Britannians, 
which gave them a ' horrible ' appearance (" Omnes vero se Britanni 
vitro inficiunt, quod cseruleum efficit colorem, atque hoc horribiliores 
sunt in pugna aspectu ") ; and Tacitus saw " ghost armies " of 
painted Germanic Marians, whose later successors were the modern 
black-faced commandos of the Second World War. 

Paint and pattern may, among primitive tribes, occasionally 
be outlined by additional glued-on materials which, following the 
principal design, give it a more plastic appearance. The Central 
and Northern Australian natives add such touches in white feather- 
down to the red and black circular symbols of their skin paint to 
achieve a highly original effect. Certain North American Indian 
bands use corn meal and seeds for similar adornments. 

The desire to give a more lasting quality to the fully applied 


patterns in a fanciful manner led to the invention of clay stamps or 
pintaderas, as the Aztecs called them, with whose help a fixed pattern 
could be printed on the desired spot. These, too, were known 
already during the ice age. To-day the Gran Chaco tribes use 
them ; so do the Dayak of Borneo, who stamp their favourite 
ornaments on their skins and sometimes use the pattern thus 
acquired as an outline for their tattoos. 

The painted pattern, however, washed off 
easily and faded. This disadvantage inspired 
the birth of another idea : to find a means of 
making the chosen design permanent. The 
result was the tattoo a custom of world-wide 
distribution. Colour is not always added to 
emphasize the incisions and punctuations that 
make the pattern ; if none is used we speak of 
a " scar tattoo " of the type used in the old 
Tasmanian culture. To-day its application is 
most frequent in another part of the world, 
the African continent. 

Both sexes of the Banda a Ubangi band 
prefer symmetrically arranged incisions in the 
skin of breast, abdomen, back, and arms. The 
Pangwe outline with soot the desired pattern 
on their skins, sculpture it with a knife, and 
rub the wounds with burnt resin, thus decora- 
ting their entire bodies with ' lovely' scars. 
This beautification is considered indecent on 
the upper thighs, and the Jaunde women who 
cannot refrain from decorating these, too, are 
considered of low morals. The natives of 
Khartoum tattoo their small babies with the 
tribal crest by incising the identification ornament in their cheeks. 
The wounds are rubbed with a mixture of saltpetre, ashes, and 
selected herbs. After a few days the incisions swell to coil shape 
and remain as broad scars, the characteristic mark of the Sudanese. 
The scar tattoo may or may not be used in combination with the 
tattooed colour ornament. On account of its more delicate execu- 
tion the latter allows finer lines, more intricate designs, and a more 
precise and symmetrical arrangement. The best results in this 
respect have been reached by the natives of the South Seas and, 
among them, especially the Maori of New Zealand, whose magnifi- 
cent spiral ornaments give permanent attractiveness even to the 
artistically preserved and reverently worshipped heads of their 


Wood Carving 

Museum of 
Ethnology , Cologne 


dead. The carved figures in which the Maori culture is so rich 
commemorate these characteristic tattoos, sometimes in huge 
dimensions and all over their unclad bodies. Even a Madonna 
carved by baptized Maori for their church shows these ancient 
patterns all over her unclothed body. This typical Maori tattoo, 
which expresses social rank and membership in a band thereby 
specified, is an object of sincere pride even to the oldest dignitaries, 
who see their own individualities thus expressed and glorified. 
The experience of a white artist has shown that even the most 
realistic portrait of a Maori chieftain was sneered at by its model 
who, with a superior attitude, drew his facial tattoo pattern in the 
sand to explain to the white man : " This is what I am. What 
you have drawn there is of no meaning." 

The British sailor O'Connell, who became the son-in-law of a 
Ponape chieftain, had to undergo upon his acceptance into the 
noble family the painful procedure of having his entire body richly 
tattooed with fancy ornaments, which he later learned to identify as 
the names of the departed chieftains and nobles of the tribe. For 
a whole week two female artists handled the thorn-studded tattoo 
boards, hitting him neatly at the previously outlined spots and 
nursing his wounds with coal and oil. 

Many North American Indian tribes also indulged in the adorning 
art of tattooing, be it for women alone as with the Tubatulabal and 
Kamia, or for both sexes, as in south-east Alaska. 

This custom has infiltrated the high cultures. The vertical lines 
marking chests and brows on the ancient figures on the bronze 
plates of Benin are tattoos. The invaders of modern Japan were 
stunned by the sight of the bodies of men and women who were 
completely covered with tattooed images of gods and men, quota- 
tions from the classics, scenes from plays, flowers, and animals. 
In our Western civilization the tattoo has lost its original social and 
artistic significance and has been degraded to vulgarity, to be used 
merely by adventurous sea-dogs, show people, and criminals. 

The more parts of the body these ' artistic ' painting and tattooing 
operations involve, the more it becomes necessary to remove the 
body hair. Many tribes adhere, in addition, to the aesthetic con- 
ception that a complete depilation of all but the hair of the head is 
a ' must J for a well-bred person. Consequently we find a great 
variety of methods of getting rid of unwanted hair, which may be 
plucked out with shells (" quick as with a Christmas goose," says 
O'Connell), or with the help of wooden sticks, with metal pincers, 
or simply with the finger-nails. This custom has become part of 
the Hindu and Mohammedan religious requirements. 


Even facial hair may be considered objectionable. Indians often 
consider any trace of beard as distasteful, and check its growth by 
rubbing their chins with wood ashes. Since nature has made the 
whole race nearly beardless anyway many tribes just remove their 
eyebrows, hair by hair, to make their faces * clean/ The plucking 
or shaving of the hair-line to achieve the effect of a higher forehead 
is practised by Papuas and Indians, and is also known in Africa. 

The regard of the beard as an asset or an obstacle to male hand- 
someness and the change of beard fashions through the ages 
belong to the most fascinating chapters of cultural history. When 
we consider the fact that modern historical study divides beards 
into fifteen standard types we can well imagine the multitude of 
pre-civilized forms with all their side-line ramifications. From the 
full beard of the Australians, the corkscrew goatee of many Papuas, 
and the ' Assyrian ' African forms to the * naked ' faces of the 
Indians there is an immense multitude of varieties. As for civilized 
man, the archaeological facts seem to prove that the oldest fashions 
of classical times favoured the clean-shaven face. 

The earliest evidence of antique beards appears, according to 
Motefindt, towards the end of the Cretan- Mycenaean period. The 
most interesting form of beard is the semicircular fringe which 
frames the otherwise clean-shaven face. It is the * classical ' 
beard which we know from the geometrical vases of the Athenian 
cemetery of the post-Mycenaean period and from the seventh- 
century bronze relief of Olympia. It appears also on the reliefs of 
the temple of Assos, and is worn by Zeus and his adorants (Acropolis 
of Athens). How persistently this fashion survived through the 
centuries is evidenced by a miniature of King Edgar of England, 
dated A.D. 966, which shows him sporting the fringe beard. Exactly 
the same type of beard is worn by to-day's natives of southern 
Arabia, the Somali coast, the Singhalese of Ceylon, and in eleven 
regions of Oceania. Representations of the Aztec gods, Quezalcoatl 
and Tecciztecatl, show them with the shaven upper lip and this 
age-old fringe around their chins. In the cultural region of the 
Mediterranean, from about A.D. 500 on, this was supplemented by 
the fashion of the full beard, which replaced it almost completely 
about one hundred years later. 

Motefindt, who has given much thought to this attribute of 
masculine attractiveness, distinguishes three clearly defined phases 
of this fashion the first and oldest when the fringe-beard was the 
characteristic feature of one Semitic tribe. As soon as the peoples 
of the Near East came into contact with the Semitic culture this 
type of beard became fashionable among them. The second phase 



was entered one thousand years later, when the fringe was no longer 
restricted to Semitic tribes but had become common among all 
peoples of the Near East. The Egyptians of the eighteenth and 
nineteenth dynasties identified any man with this type of beard as 
a native of the Near East. Only during the third phase did it 
appear detached from any ethnic group, freely following the fads 
of fashion. It is still found to-day not 
only among many tribes ot primitive 
cultures but also among European fisher- 
men and peasants. 

There exists hardly one single element 
among the accessories of human allure 
which cannot be traced back to the dawn 
of culture ; and many of the fashions 
which we favour to-day throw light upon 
our state of mind which in some way or 
other is spiritually connected with these 
expressions of our external appearance. 
This is especially true of feminine hair- 
styles. Legion indeed are the shapes 
of coiffures preferred by the different 
peoples through the ages of unwritten 
and of written history, and when a new 
fad makes its triumphant debut the 
historically schooled student of the 
attributes of human vanity can in many 
cases interpret it as the evidence of a 
cultural change as well. 

No need to say that climate and form 
of economic living conditions play a decisive role in these changes. 
An elaborate coiffure requires time and a tendency toward com- 
placency, as are provided by the agricultural form of economics, 
while hunters and food gatherers, with their unstable form of 
existence, can hardly afford to waste many hours on a com- 
plicated arrangement of their hair. Although we can roughly 
distinguish between three principal types of hair : short and 
kinky (Pygmies and Negroid races) ; wavy and of medium length 
(Australians, Veddas, and whites), straight and long (Mongolian 
races), these technical distinctions are so general that they cannot 
do justice to the multitude of actual varieties. 

A better general picture is provided when we consider the cultural 
age of the different ethnic groups. Among the Australians, who 
can be considered very close to the cradle of earliest mankind, 


After Kramer 



we find hardly any artistic hair-styles. If we look for the extra- 
ordinary, we have to visit the agricultural tribes of West Africa. 
Compared with their coiffures, the hair fashions at the court of Marie 
Antoinette can be called drab and unimaginative. Among them, 
a respectable coiffure is a masterpiece of sculpture, built to last for 
months and moulded with the aid of clay, animal fat, and similar 
ingredients. Glass beads, cowrie shells, brass ornaments, buttons, 

and feathers provide the last touch 
to these monuments, which are 
often held in place by structures 
of leaf ribs, palm marrow, moss 
coils, etc. The resulting master- 
pieces, whose completion may take 
months, are so artful that they give 
the impression of a sturdy hat or 
helmet, which they sometimes actu- 
ally are. Often their hair fashions 
are depicted on specimens of their 
plastic art long after the fashions 
themselves have changed and even 
after a tribe has been extinguished. 
This provides the white student with 
a history of the coiffures of West 
Africa, helping him in the dating of 
a work of art. Men and women 
of these peoples sometimes prefer 
artful wigs to the real thing ; these 
wigs being so exquisitely sculptured 
and so firmly glued to the head that 

only a very close inspection can reveal the difference. Tessmann 
counted in one tribe twenty-five different types of hair-styles and 
wigs, all distinguished by individual names. The Mangbetu of 
the northern Congo have a special fondness for long, narrow hind- 
heads (a shape artificially created by deformations of the skull from 
early childhood on) ; and they accentuate even more this effect of 
their oblong head shapes by hair-styles of a swept-back type. 

Many Papua men build their coiffures with equal over-emphasis 
on ' architectonic ' quaintness, but since these hair-styles often' 
have another task, namely to support the gigantic masks worn 
during their sacred dances, vanity alone would not be a proper 
explanation of this custom. Strangely enough, their women and 
children often cut their hair short and leave it to the men to wear, 
in the true sense of the word, their burden. The Polynesian hair- 


Sculptured with cow droppings 

After H. Plischke 


styles are, in general, much simpler, and mostly feature merely a 
small chignon. The reason is that these people are so fond of 
their art of tattooing that they even shave parts of their hair to 
furnish further opportunities for the application of their favourite 

Many Indians of North and South America cut their hair fairly 
short, with occasional bangs over their foreheads. Some tribes, 
like the Apache, feature rolls and coils or broad locks in the centre 
of the head, while the Eskimo, who like to wear their straight tresses 
in simple open fashion, use an occasional chignon. 

As we see from these examples, our modern civilization has taken 
over almost all hair-styles of former times during the different 
waves of fashion, with the exception of 
certain exaggerated West African styles. 
In the other high cultures the rigid re- 
ligious laws have often stopped the accept- 
ance of a fashion, as, for instance, the short 
bob, which is taboo among Mohammedan 
women and will never be accepted by 
Hindu beauties, to whom cut hair is the 
outer mark of the sorrowful state of HAIR-STYLE OF MARRIED 
widowhood. ZULU WOMEN 

When our ladies go to the beauty After Carl von Hoffman 
parlour to get a henna rinse they by no 

means benefit by an invention of modern sophistication, because 
the art of dyeing one's hair is as old as mankind itself. The 
custom among the North American Kamia Indians of deepening 
the black colour of their hair by rinsing it in " a boiled decoction 
of black gum from the bark of the mesquite tree " is an isolated 
instance, because the desire to bleach or lighten the hair colour is 
much more prevalent. Many Polynesian tribes bleach their frizzy 
hair with the help of lye or lime, which results in a reddish or 
yellowish effect. Not satisfied with this, they add a powder of 
ochreous earth to their coiffure, which contrasts strangely with their 
deep brown skins. This practice is so common that the explorer 
Ross states surprisedly that the Mount Hagen tribes of New 
Guinea " never bleach or colour " their hair. The British scientist 
Balfour builds an interesting theory on the habit of the Solomon 
Islanders of dyeing their hair red with ochre. Explaining the huge 
red cylinders of stone which crown the mystical colossal statues of 
Easter Island as sculptured ' red hair/ he tries to clear up the much- 
discussed question of the origin of the extinct original population 
whose members came, as he claims, from the Solomons to build on 


Easter Island those gigantic monoliths in their own image, with an 
accent on the ruddy colour of their bleached hair. 

That this world-wide grooming of the human hair necessitated 
the invention of convenient gadgets to comb or brush it is obvious. 
Bone combs have been found in the palaeolithic graves, and even 
the very primitive Fuegians use combs fashioned of toothed jaw- 
bones of the dolphin. The shapes of fibre brushes and wooden 
and bamboo combs used by other primitive tribes are myriad. The 

After G. Tessmann 


Museum of Ethnology, 

most popular form is a flat bundle of wood or bamboo splinters or 
wisps of stiff grass, bound together to form a convenient handle. 
Hairpins in the most varied shapes were known in all ages. 

The desire and the possibilities of shampooing one's hair are, 
naturally, dependent upon the permanence of the coiffure and the 
beauty aids available. Water-loving people like the Polynesians 
wash their hair frequently while swimming. Many American 
Indians preferred regular shampoos with yucca decoctions or 
similar plant products. The African coiffures are not so suited for 
this type of cleansing treatment. But the continuous greasing of 
the hair, the occasional addition of clay, and the usage of such 
* lotions * as cow urine are effective remedies against dirt and 
unpleasant little insects. 


One might assume that the great accent on a perfect appearance 
of the * crowning glory ' might have promoted the early invention 
of equally fancy bonnets or ' picture hats.' This, however, is not 
the case. Despite the rays of the tropical sun, most primitive 
tribes do not feel the need for hats, and where they appear they have 
a social or magic significance which is not proportionate to their 
utility value. The elaborate head-coverings of many African 
chieftains are plainly tokens of dignity (like, by the way, the parasol, 
which among primitives is a sign of nobility or 
chieftainship). This conception has lingered 
on to this day, from the rank-proclaiming hats 
of the Chinese bureaucracy to the caps of 
certain military and naval officers with the 
amount of gold braid increasing with the 
rank. The birettas and tiaras of the Catholic 
clergy are another example. 

In cold climates, where the temperature 
forces the wearing of caps, parkas, and the 
like, head-coverings are of simple utilitarian 
shapes ; but to the man of the tropics a hat 
is the forerunner of a crown. One of the great 
' magical ' possessions of the white invader in 
Africa was his hat or helmet, which symbolized 
to the natives his position as a ruler. 

Among some tribes, especially of the South Affixed to the hair 
Seas, a hat is bestowed upon the young boy by glue 

when he comes of age as a symbol of the Kabiri, Papua, New 
manhood which he has to earn under hard Guinea 

tests of his courage. The Kabiri of New A f ter A > H - Haddon 
Guinea call this hat a diba. It is of conical 
shape, covered with lime and decorated with feathers or flowers. 
The men glue it to the head and do not remove it even during 
sleep. The Mount Hagen tribes, also of New Guinea, allow their 
young men to wear a hat " as soon as a beard appears on their chin " 
they call it woinia or kan ku. The men of a neighbouring tribe, 
the Murik, are entitled to wear a hat only after their initiation ; 
O'Connell saw this in Ponape. There are similar parallels in an 
entirely different part of the globe : among the Indians of the 
north-west coast of Alaska, where such a hat was known as a " cloud 

This strange, conical head-covering has played a mystical role 
throughout the ages. At some point it seems to have lost its 
meaning of rank and dignity and to have acquired a sombre or 




demonic significance : it became the magician's hat of the Middle 
Ages, the mark of witches and evil ghosts. In the eleventh century 
its wear was decreed as obligatory to the Jews of Europe, the 
prescribed colour being yellow, and Saxon coins of the year 1444 
(the so-called * Jew pennies ') show a bearded man wearing such a 
hat. Le Sage lets his Gil Bias witness a public burning at Toledo 
of the victims of the Spanish Inquisition who wore " so-called 
carochas, t.e., conical-shaped high hats of cardboard, covered with 
the painting of flames and demonic figures. " This ancient hat 
is still to-day the trade-mark of Halloween witches and circus 
magicians, and has reached its lowest degree of dignity in the 
* dunce hats ' worn in shame by unruly schoolchildren. Its 
long and colourful history is another proof of the fact that the 
tracing of the origin of ancient things often leads to fascinating 

The differences in the opinions of different peoples about the 
same object are always interesting ; and the heterogeneous tastes 
are often amazing. Take, for instance, our belief that white teeth 
are an asset to attractiveness. Not all peoples think so. But 
whatever their aesthetic ideal, there is no tribe whose members do 
not try to reach it. 

Closest to our own ideas comes the desire to have white, clean 
teeth. The Nuer use ashes and cow drops in their daily efforts to 
achieve this desirable whiteness. The Pangwe are so fond of their 
teeth that they carry their tooth-brushes around in the shape of 
brass-trimmed walking-sticks whose upper end is split into many 
bristle-like spikes. Whenever the contemplative stroller feels the 
urge, he stops to give his teeth the ' once-over/ 

In complete contrast to this, the Dusun (Borneo) ideal of an 
alluring mouth must display black teeth. The skilful method 
applied to reach this goal has been described by the explorer Staal, 
who stresses the fact that the dyeing procedure is so sacred that it 
may take place only before the great devils' feast of Meginakan. 
Here follows the recipe : " Quava leaves are pounded and mixed 
with ashes of some wood (gombah), and the mixture smeared on the 
teeth. A strip of banana leaf is folded and laid on the teeth and 
pressed down to prevent the ' paint ' from being soaked off. . . . 
They keep this on for about forty hours. Then the skin of a 
creeper (timbahung) is pounded and mixed with lime ; the banana 
bandage is taken away and this new mixture rubbed on. When 
dry they keep black. " These people also like to * behead ' their 
teeth by filing them down with a rough stone. Despite this practice 
they never suffer from toothache, the same author affirms. 


" Though the dental lies bare and remains to rot ... all chew the 
ririh, and this is clearly a preventive of toothache." 

This habit is one of the many forms of tooth mutilations practised 
for various reasons by many primitive tribes. Often it is part of 
the initiation ceremonies and kindred to the conception of the dying 
moon. It may mark the fact that a person has come of age. Some 
tribes, like the Nuer, who break their six- to seven-year-olds' lower 
incisors, explain this with the remark : " We do this to demonstrate 
by it the difference between man and beast." Some merely file 
the front teeth into fancy spikes, which necessitates the use of a 
chisel. Among the south-east Australian Yuin this ritual of 
chiselling off part of their young men's teeth is performed by a 
mystically garbed old member of the tribe who is supposed to be 
the Supreme Being ; and when he begins to use his wooden chisel 
none of his young victims dares to betray the slightest sign of pain. 
Tessman describes the tooth beautification method of the Pangwe : 
" The patient, lying on his back, bites firmly into a wooden spool. 
The dental artist sets a small iron chisel on the tooth and, using a 
piece of wood for a hammer, hits off the undesired parts splinter 
by splinter." Other original reasons are given for this custom, as 
by the Akamba, who told Lindblom ; " We deform our teeth 
because this enables us to spit nicely [artistically]." A West Afrcian 
Machako man told him a little story which the Swedish scientist 
wrote down just as he heard it : 

Some girls went away to get their teeth chipped. They were 
chipped. And one girl had six teeth chipped and two taken out. 
And the girls were three in number, and one of them had got her 
teeth chipped very beautifully. Then they said : " Let us see who 
has been chipped best and who has got her teeth best taken out ! " 
They said : " Let us spit ! " They spat. The one that had her 
teeth well chipped spat much farther than the rest. Then they 
became excited with envy, and threw her in the water, and she died. 

The story is finished. 

Another odd dental mutilation is the incrustation of the teeth 
with precious stones and metals, mostly practised by peoples who 
belong to the high cultures. The Dayak and Batak drill holes into 
their front teeth, and close them again with small disks of brass, 
gold, or mother-of-pearl. The Maya of Yucatan used gold or 
precious stones in a similar way ; and the natives of Ecuador and 
India of to-day boast of the same fashion. But whatever the final 
effect, this type of beautification is nevertheless a mutilation. 

However, dental mutilations are by no means the strangest. 
Best known perhaps is the custom of many primitives of piercing 



the septum of their noses for reasons of vanity. First a leaf of 
grass is introduced, to be later replaced by thicker and larger objects, 
until feather-quills, bones, wooden or metallic objects can be 
introduced into the hole, to the wearer's joy. Many Australians 


Wyndham, North-west Australia 
After F. D. McCarthy 



Tortoise shell on shell 
New Ireland 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

sport this fashion, but the Polynesian Maori allow such distinction 
only to their noble families, and make a whole ceremony of the 
occasion when one of their infants gets its nose pierced, in olden 
times preferably with the pointed bone of an enemy. The Nor- 
Papua pierce, in addition to the septum of the nose, its right side 
and fill the holes with fancy decorations. This custom has been 
copied in the Hindu high culture, although golden rings decorated 
with jewels have replaced the old islanders' pig's teeth and bamboo 
sticks. The Papua of Murik go even further : they pierce their 


ears also and like to punctuate their eyes with a small sharp stick, 
* painting ' a circle of black dots around the iris. 

Among the strangest types of allure are the wooden or ivory disks 
worn in the pierced upper or lower lips or in both, and also often 
in the drawn-out holes of the ear-lobes. The Alaskan Indians 
sport such wooden disks or labrets in the centre of their lower lips. 
This custom has surpassed any imagination in West Africa, especially 
in the region of Lake Chad, where the wooden disks worn in 
feminin^ lips reach the size of saucers. (No wonder the art of 
kissing is unknown to these fashionable ladies !) Ear piercings 
can also end in horrifying deformations, with the rubberband-like 
lobes being dragged down by heavy wooden logs. Our modern 
ear ornaments bear just a faint resemblance to this stage of their 
former development. 

The pink to purple nail enamels of our modern ladies are no sign 
of modern sophistication. Many children of nature file their nails 
on rocks and pieces of slate and colour them afterwards in lavish 
shades of red. Prehistoric mummies in the British Museum still 
show this mark of vanity, which later was so highly perfected in 
China and Egypt. 

But what would all these beautifications of the body itself mean 
if their general effect were not enhanced by the multitude of neck- 
laces, bracelets, arm-rings, and feather crests which men and 
women have added to their other accessories of physical allure ! 
From the modest sinew with its bird-bone * beads ' and shells, as 
worn by the Selk'nam of Tierra del Fuego, the cockatoo crests and 
paradise-birds' tails in the hair of the Polynesians, and the heavy 
brass shields and collars of the African tribes, what wealth of never- 
ending ideas we find to make nature serve man's (and woman's !) 
vanity ! 

There is hardly anything in nature which has not been made use 
of to decorate the human body and to demonstrate the taste and 
the wealth of its bearer. Boar's fangs, bat's teeth, egg-shell disks, 
snake bones, snails, berry clusters, seed ornaments, toucan beaks, 
ivory-tusk fragments, tortoise-shell pendants, forged rings of iron, 
silver, and gold, are just a few examples. But here, again, the 
choice of ornaments and materials gives away the religious and 
magic affiliations of their owner : among the moon-worshipping 
mother-right peoples we will find characteristic oval crescents of 
mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell, and metals, which symbolize the 
shape of the nocturnal light forms that still play so dominating a 
role in the Mohammedan world while the disciples of the sun, 
the roaming father-right peoples, prefer the circular disk, which they 


display in magnificent variations of exquisitely inlaid or carved 

Boundless as this wealth of materials is, certain singular materials 
among them enjoy a special world-wide popularity. Among them 
is the cowrie shell, which has monetary value as well. It is worn 
on arms and necks and in coiffures from Australia to the innermost 


Snail-shells PEBBLES 

From the cave Cro-Magnon 
Departement Dordogne 

parts of Africa. A close second place is occupied by the tiny disks 
stencilled out from many varieties of sea shells (in Oceania) or 
ostrich-eggs (in Africa). Colourful glass beads have penetrated 
the dark continent to such an extent since the Middle Ages that 
they have actually become a * native ' accessory. Large-size carved 
images and chieftain's chairs are in vogue in West Africa, where 
their finely carved details are at times completely covered with the 
glamorous beads. Later, also, the Indians took to them quickly, 
but developed very definite preferences which changed with the 
waves of fashion. Many a white man who tried to offer the last 
decade's fashionable blue beads found out to his chagrin that, for 
instance, no well-groomed lady next to the Xingu was now willing 
to accept anything but red beads ! 


Some tribes, as the south-eastern Calif ornian Kamia, reserved 
certain species of shells for the men while their women claimed 
exclusively for themselves the necklaces of beautiful * blue beads ' 
stencilled out of their own favourite clam. The Australian 
aborigines have two specified preferences : the baler-shell (Melo 
diadema) ornaments of Queensland, western Central Australia, and 
north-eastern South Australia, and the pearl-shell (Meleagrina 
maxima) ornaments, worn almost exclusively in the western half of 
the continent. These decorations 
are often engraved with delicate 
ornamentations and worn as large 
disks on the chest. They can have 
magic powers, and are effective in 
the hands of a rejected lover to 
make a girl's " internal organs 
shake with emotion, " as Spencer 
and Gillen put it. 

The masterpieces turned out 
by the African metal craftsmen 
reach extraordinary sizes. Even 
the heaviest pieces, of which often 
scores are worn, can compete in 
workmanship with the daintier 
specimens, as, for instance, the 
goat's-hair bracelets covered with 
copper wire. The closer we 
approach the high cultures, the 
more precious materials in our 
sense of the word do we find in the products of exotic 
jewellery. Among them is the akori, the * blue coral ' of Benin, 
where ancient bronze plates show men so covered with bracelets 
and necklaces that their mouths were hardly left free for breath- 
ing. From old Peru come the * green pearls ' of Chrysocoll 
and the beautiful sodalith stones gained in the pre-Inca mines 
of Cerro Sapo. Pure gold was the material used by the African 
Ashanti as weighting units for the precious dust itself ; and the 
vanished gold coins of the Old and the New Worlds can to-day be 
found in surprising quantities in the heavy necklaces of the North 
African desert girls. The invaders of Peru found households full 
of gadgets for daily use fashioned in pure gold. All this magnifi- 
cence is worn either on the naked or the clothed body of man, since 
decorative possessions are as old as and, indeed, frequently older 
than the clothing. The decisive factor here was the climate. 


Chimu, Peru 
After Antze 


The Western garb of trousers, vest, and jacket has its origin in 
the garments of the arctic peoples. For instance, the oldest clothes 
of some Australian tribes and of the Fuegians consisted of loosely 
worn fur coats and bast-like bark strings and girdles. To the game- 
trapping Indians of Labrador a mink coat (in New York the mark 
of social superiority) is by no means fashion- 
able ; a Hudson's Bay Company * point ' 
blanket is the thing which is another 
demonstration of the relativity of fashion. 

The characteristic items of attire of later 
developments are the penis case of bark or 
leaves, often trimmed with feathers, and the 
flexible belt of bark or raffia. Skirt -like 
aprons of fibre and spiral -like girdles and 
raincoats of pandanus leaves are other forms 
of fashion, but all these manifold forms of 
clothing or unclothing, including the varying 
foot-gear of the ages, are not so much acces- 
sories of allure as protective necessities. An 
exception, perhaps, is the earliest form of a 
very modern accessory of modern allure, the 
brassiere, whose first appearance was as a 
string used to bind down the developed 
breasts of grown-up girls. When Father 
Schulien insisted on an explanation of this 
custom he was told by the Portuguese East 
WOMAN'S COSTUME African Atchwabo : " Sir, the breasts vibrate. 
When the men see this they burn." Many 
African tribes sport this coquettish string, 
which is sometimes replaced by a piece of 
cloth, " to prevent the breasts from moving 
up and down while the girls are walking." 
As long as everybody wears about the same outfit one can hardly 
count the daily garb among the accessories of allure. Only when 
clothing gains a more individual touch by a greater accessibility of 
materials, by the development of painted, printed, and woven 
patterns, and the invention of the button, and other * unnecessary ' 
trimmings, can we speak of alluring dress. Because true allure is 
an expression of individual taste. 

Another more refined touch comes with the appreciation of 
perfumes, hardly found in earliest times because most flowers of 
the tropics have no scent and the secrets of chemistry were not 
known to the peoples without written history. 

North-eastern tribes, 

Lake Leopold II, 

Belgian Congo 

After Maes 


The finer gadgets and tools of vanity, the secret boxes, containers, 
and flasks of the dressing-table, can be traced back to earliest times. 
Tiny jars for lip rouge, fashioned of bone segments, are known 
from palaeolithic times ; so are mixing-bowls and pestles for the 
make-up. Small platters for the application of grease paint to the' 
skin, even in the shape of a human hand with outstretched fingers, 
are equally old and have later been copied in the luxurious materials 
of ancient Egypt. Richly ornamented slate palettes, bone flasks, 
and covered * cold cream ' containers were found in ice-age caves ; 
and the elaborate inros of Japan are merely the jewel-studded 
imitations of such flasks. The earliest form of the mirror is the 
polished shell or metal disk ; the latter 's luxurious perfection in the 
precious metals of Egypt, China, Byzantium, and Greece can be 
admired in the museums of the world. 

The degree of luxury reached during the pre-Christian epochs in 
the countries of the ancient high cultures has never been equalled 
or surpassed by the machine-made accessories of allure of our days. 
Whoever has seen the necklaces of Egypt and of Ur (about 2500 B.C.) 
in the British Museum will agree with this statement. We all 
know the perfection of grooming and of sophisticated attractiveness 
attained by Cleopatra, by the Arbiter elegantorum of Rome, and by 
the Incas of Peru. The Empress Theodora of Byzantium was, as 
far as grooming is concerned, a living piece of art, from the gold- 
dust in her bluish hair and the Arabian stimmi on her brows to her 
rosy toes. Her pillows of Chinese silk were filled with the down of 
the Pontian crane : hundreds of flasks and gadgets covered her 
vanity table of citrus wood ; her soap came from Spain, and her 
bath-tub was made of terebinthian wood. 

To equal such refinement, our epoch has neither the leisure nor 
the wealth. Another, more puritan, conception has been given to 
Western man since the comparatively recent words in the book of 
Leviticus (xix, 28) were spoken : " Ye shall not make any cuttings 
in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you : I am 
the Lord." 

Yet those who do not know of the * wizardries ' of the written 
and the printed word have not heard this message, and for this 
reason the men and women we call primitive still go on enjoying 
the colours and the jewellery God provided for them in His free 
realm of nature, and they still do their best to enhance the natural 
charms of their bodies with the help of skills unforgotten through 
the millenniums. 



The First Robot 

HARD THOUGH LIFE is in the wilderness, early man nevertheless 
could draw on the intellectual resources denied to his lesser 
brethren, the members of the animal kingdom. Working with the 
simplest of gadgets, he began to nurse a dream : to find a medium 


After Peter Kolb 

human, magical, or otherwise- to help him to carry the burden of 
daily toil. If he were fortunate enough to remove the cork from 
the bottle of ingenuity, if he could rub the magic lamp of creative- 
ness, a jinnee might arise whose powers he could put to service. 
But, alas, his was not the world of The Arabian Nights ; and if he 
were ever to find a magic helper it would have to be created 
out of his own mind and built with his own hands. This servant 
would be a machine indeed, the first machine, the first robot. 



How great was his need for such a miraculous device ! Especially 
was this true for peoples not yet acquainted with the comparative 
security that comes with the knowledge of agriculture. The 
arduous task of hunting and food gathering often limits man's 
desire to exercise his individual creativeness. It takes long hours 
to spot a nest of wild bees high up in some far-away tree and to make 
the necessary preparations to obtain the honey ; to trail and kill 
the bird on the wing ; to lurk in the bush for some shy game to 
pass by ; or to watch the fish for the chance to spear them at a 
second's warning. All such efforts require a great amount of 
patience on the part of the hunter. Days may pass before an 
animal approaches close enough to be bagged. Many a family 
cannot easily stand the strain of waiting too long for provisions in 
a society where the foresight to store staple foods in time of plenty 
is not yet developed, or where that ' time of plenty ' may never come. 

The ingenuity of man tried to overcome these hardships. Better 
undoubtedly than the club or the stone as hunting tools were the 
arrow, the harpoon, the lasso, the bola, the butterfly-net, and the 
hand-thrown snare. True, these all still required the hunter's 
constant presence and alertness, but they either augmented the 
power of his bare hands or held the game securely until the hunter 
could reach it. Some tools enabled the hunter to capture more 
than one bird or animal at a time for instance, when he used the 
game net and counted on the co-operation of his fellow-hunters to 
drive many prey into its entangling meshes. From the times of 
the Pharaoh Haremheb up to our day quail and other birds have 
been hunted by this method of spreading out over a field a weighted 
net into which the game birds are driven by helpers. This method 
is used to-day by the Dayaks of Borneo who catch deer with a set of 
perpendicularly arranged nets ; by the East African Washamba 
who catch antelope and gazelles ; and by the Eskimos of Bering 
Strait who bag rabbits. They are first driven into nets and then 
killed by hand. Compared with earlier methods, these were im- 
provements, but the continuous presence of the hunter was still the 
invariable prerequisite to success. 

Similar methods include obstructing the flight of a flock of birds 
by nets. Following this method, the Siberians hunt geese, while 
the Eskimos along the Yukon catch the white partridge with their 
salmon nets. The battue principle applies a somewhat different 
method. Thus, it was common among the North American 
prairie tribes to hunt the buffalo by driving the herds along two 
converging fences over a bluff. Certain primitive methods of bird- 
catching have become part of our own hunting customs. The prey 


is attracted either by whistling or by decoys from behind a blind. 
Then the hunter releases by hand a mechanism for capturing it ; 
finally he imprisons the bird in a container, cage, or net. 

While the possibilities of a successful hunt were increased by all 
such devices, the main problem had not yet been solved to achieve 
equal results without the continuous presence of the hunter at or 
near the catching spot. If the waiting, the handling, and releasing 
of the weapon or catching tool, and the holding or killing of the 
game could be replaced by mechanical devices a real step "towards 
a greater amount of personal freedom for the hunter would indeed 
have been achieved. The invention of such a device would enable 
him to stay at home while his hunting was being taken care of, and 
to exploit several game tracks simultaneously. In the time thus 
gained he would be able to pursue other useful trades and handi- 
crafts, or he could play and dance and sing and have a good time. 
Perhaps it really was complacency and laziness that inspired the 
first primitive genius to invent such devices. We don't know for 
sure, but the very sounds of the words 'work,' 'travail,' ' Arbeit J 
and the ' Atiyxhem ! ' of the Volga boatmen have so hollow a ring 
that they all seem to express the depression of hard-labouring men 

The day came when this first revolutionary invention was 
actually made ; when man for the first time built a machine which 
worked for him during his absence ; when human intelligence 
created a robot to take his place with mechanical precision. This 
miraculous tool was the animal-trap. 

It worked like the net, the club, the hand-thrown snare, only 
more precisely and effectively. In addition, its capacities were 
greater than the much weaker efforts of the human hand which 
it replaced. By the application of lever principles attached to the 
delicate release mechanisms, the slightest touch would set into 
motion the weight of considerable, even tremendous powers, 
skilfully matched to the game animal's strength. Primitive man 
certainly had no text-book knowledge of the principles of physics 
and was ignorant of the causes of mechanical phenomena, but he 
was, nevertheless, shrewd enough as an observer to imitate by 
mechanical means what he had seen in nature. The living branch, 
jerking back to its natural position after an accidental dislocation ; 
the weight of dead trees thundering down the hill after a hurricane ; 
the hazards created by a branch-covered hole in the ground these 
and others were early man's physics teachers, and he made skilful 
use of what he had learned from them. After he saw that his 
devices worked he did not stop with the invention of just one kind 



of trap. Combining his mechanical knowledge with his un- 
excelled knowledge of the peculiarities of climate and of the 
behaviour of animals in his locality, he succeeded in devising 
hundreds of different models of traps, all cunningly adapted to the 
special conditions of his surroundings. 

For the effectiveness of his robot he made use of the currents of 
water ; the slippery quality of ice ; the thirst of a jungle beast 
trotting along its path to the spring ; the bear's sweet tooth ; the 
curiosity of the whisky-jack ; the robber instinct of the owl ; the 
shyness of nocturnal creatures ; and the pride of the lynx who will 
jump once to get free, but never a second 
time. Knowing the peculiarities of his prey, 
he thwarted even their keen sense of smell 
by destroying all odours of the human hand 
left on his machine and, as the modern criminal 
uses his own methods to avoid tell-tale finger- 
prints, the man of nature covered up his scent 
by singeing wood, by the use of * living ' twines 
and glues, and by the scents of nature resin, 
blood, or animal scents like castor eum. To 
mislead the eye of the game as well, he added 
a masterful art of camouflage by building 
artificial pens around his machine or covering 
it with branches, and by spreading bunches of 
dry savannah grass over the deadly pits he had 
dug in the soil. 

The hundreds of traps he invented, in all 
sizes, from the bamboo tube for mice to the enormous models for 
giraffes and elephants, have amazed scientists for years. Many 
museums possess, in the collections brought back by their explorers, 
traps or parts of traps which can be neither properly identified nor 
assembled. It takes a specialized knowledge to reconstruct these 
machines, and often this can only be done after a previous thorough 
study of the tribe, climate, and fauna concerned. 

Varied as the applied physical principles are, all machines that 
hold or kill the game animal without the presence of the hunter can 
be classified in four major groups according to the motive principle 
used. The recognition of these groups furnishes one of the most 
fascinating insights into the great intelligence displayed by early 
man in his efforts to improve his standards of living. These four 
principal types of trap occur in all imaginable versions and varieties ; 
often one or more of them are combined for the sake of greater 


Kafirs, South Africa 

After Wood 


The GRAVITY TRAP, as its name implies, makes use of weight to 
achieve the desired effect of catching a special animal either the 
weight of the animal itself, or the power of the one or more falling 
objects so arranged that they hit the victim after the release of the 
mechanism. The only existing gravity trap of the first kind, using 
an animal's own weight to bring about the capture, is the pit trap. 
Generally it merely consists of a deep hole dug in the middle of an 
animal track, its opening carefully camouflaged by branches, moss, 
leaves, and the like. The prey steps unsuspectingly upon this 
covering which gives way, thus catching the victim in the narrow 
excavation whose dimensions correspond exactly to its size. To 


Tahltan Indians, North America 

After Emmons 

prevent escape, several methods are used. The possibility of the 
animal jumping or climbing out of the hole is eliminated by sufficient 
depth of the hole, or by its conic shape, into which the animal is 
wedged by its own weight. 

The Bushmen catch the giraffe by dividing the bottom of the pit 
into two sections, leaving a central ridge of soil. The trapped 
animal rides helplessly on the ridge, unable to lift its long legs from 
the trap. To increase the effectiveness of the pitfall, pointed sticks 
are occasionally rammed into the bottom of the hole to pierce or 
wound the animal. This type of trap is not only used singly, but 
also several may be arranged at regular intervals along a fence or 
in great numbers on game paths leading to the watering-place. 
Frequently converging hedgerows of considerable length make an 
alley to the pits. 

This very effective method was, as we may recall, often copied 
by the white man during the Second World War when ' the animal's 



own weight ' was the weight of our modern dinosaurian, the tank, 
which plunged into similarly camouflaged pits. 

The second type of gravity trap uses a log, or a combination of 
other heavy objects, released by the animal itself to effect its capture 
or to kill it. As a result of primitive man's experience that falling 
logs create a force which increases in proportion to the height of 
their fall, this height is artificially increased to the greatest limit of 
effectiveness. The simplest example of such a trap is a heavy 
stone held in equilibrium by a small stick which holds the bait and 
acts as a release mechanism. Pulling at the lure, the animal causes 
the stone to fall down upon it. However, this type of release is 
ineffective whenever the weight to 
be released is too heavy, because 
then the animal can nibble on the 
bait without actually releasing the 
trap. The solution was found by 
adding a system of force-reducing 
levers and by developing a trigger 
device. Such traps are used all 
over the world, especially by the 
peoples of the arctic cultures. In- 
creasingly heavier objects were 
heaped on the striking beam which, 
in turn, required more and more 
delicate construction of the release 
mechanism. The result was astounding. The Montagnais- 
Naskapi build bear traps weighted by four or five heavy logs 
which are sprung by the mere touch of the victim's inquisitive 

Having perfected the gravity trap, the primitive hunter applied 
other laws of nature. Observing animals occasionally strangling 
themselves in the liana thicket of the primeval forest, early man 
evolved the SNARE TRAP. Utilizing the forward movement of the 
animal, he sets this device mostly on a Vertical plane. Since the 
most sensitive part of the bodies of most game animals is the region 
of the neck, snares are set on a game path in such a way that the 
head of the prey enters the noose, which tightens like a lasso. To 
keep and to hold the snare open, a number of secondary appliances 
are needed. Here, too, combinations of fences are often used with 
the snares set at the openings. 

An apparatus still in use in many parts of the Old World is the 
wheel trap, based upon the snare principle. To build it, a number 
of pointed flexible sticks are inserted from the outside into a wreath 


Labrador Indians 

After Lips 




Maka, Cameroons, 
West Africa 

After G. Lindblom 

of fibres in such a way that their points join each other at the centre. 
Attached to a tree or pole, this trap is laid in the game path, most 
often over a small pit. When the victim steps on it the flexible 
spikes give way to its foot, inserting themselves, when the animal 
tries to escape, into its tender fetlock. The 
greater its efforts to get free, the more severe 
is the pain, since the pointed sticks penetrate 
ever deeper into the flesh. An additional 
snare is sometimes laid round thisr spiked- 
wheel trap to close as soon as the animal 
tries to escape. 

The third principal trap system, the 
SPRINGING-POLE TRAP, is still in daily use 
among many peoples of Africa, Asia and 
America. It is based on the power prin- 
ciple of the inertia of a flexible stick. The 
material used as a spring is a bent tree or 
a branch which naturally seeks to regain 
its equilibrium. This, however, requires 
that the tree or branch be firmly connected to some arrangement 
by which the motive power can be utilized. This, in the case of 
the spring-pole trap, is usually a snare. 

This type of trap is generally used by agricultural peoples, who 
use it to catch smaller animals as a supple- 
mentary addition to their diet. Their more 
sedentary way of life gives them the leisure 
to build this kind of trap and refine its 
release mechanisms in numerous variations. 
Any engineer who concerns himself with 
the problems of kinematics or the mechan- 
ism of driving gears will recognize the SPRINGING-POLE TRAP 
arrangement of these release constructions 
as the oldest application of relay structures 
which occupy a paramouitt place in modern 

The application of the-springing-pole trap with its pull principle 
is not limited to animal traps alone ; the inertia of the bent rod 
serves many other purposes. In the Middle Congo springing poles 
are used for the execution of slaves and prisoners of war, whose 
heads are snapped off by the force of the blow. The modern 
gallows used for executions are by no means authentic springing- 
pole traps. They are not traps at all. Requiring the presence 
of the executioner, the gallows is merely a * trap-like catching 


After E. W. Nelson 


method/ The natives of Borneo and Hindustan set the bellows of 
their iron-melting furnaces in action with the help of springing 
poles. A similar utilization is found on northern European 
farmers' stoves, and in Eastern Asia they furnish the power for 
native weaving looms. Occasionally the spring-pole trap is used 
for fishing, with a hook or a fish-pot taking the place of the snare. 

Other forms of the springing-pole trap principle have helped 
primitive man in his war efforts and in his peace-time entertainment, 
because the springing-pole trap is the 
forerunner of both the shooting bow 
and the cross-bow, as well as of the 
violin bow and all stringed instru- 
ments. Primitive man transformed 
the springing-pole trap into a music 
bow by mounting it on a sound- 
board such as an empty pumpkin 
shell. By the addition of a number 
of such musical bows, he created 
the first stringed instruments, the 
forerunners of our modern violins, 
'cellos, etc. Both the shooting bow 
and the cross-bow, as weapons, have 
their origin in the springing-pole 
trap ; we can trace back the latter 
to China of the twelfth century B.C. 
The revolutionizing influence of the 
cross-bow weapon in the wars of 
antiquity is familiar to all students 
of history. It is possibly no over- 
statement to say that the might of the Roman Empire would 
have been impossible without the ancient cross-bow, based upon 
principles first developed by primitive man in his construction of 
animal traps. 

The TORSION TRAP, finally, is based upon another widely applied 
power principle. Man had observed that a twisted elastic string 
tends to regain its original form and, if prevented from doing so, 
generates considerable power. The force of torsion was applied 
to sinews, roots, or fibres. By attaching to these a leverage device 
the torsional force was effectively directed. A frame, often com- 
bined with a net, caught the animal ; or a wooden board was forced 
downwards on the victim. All torsion traps are designed for 
close action, since success is possible only in its immediate vicinity. 

This kind of trap had its origin in the high-culture regions of 



Bangongo, West Africa 
After Torday-Joyce 


Winnebago, Kwakiutl, 

North America North America 



South America 




South America 

West Africa 



South America 

West Africa 



Jaunde, West Africa 

After G. Tessmann 



Eskimo, Norton Sound 

After Lips 


Asia and Africa, being later more widely diffused. Wherever it 
is in use among primitive tribes like the Eskimo and Chukchee, 
it has been secondarily adopted and is not a result of their own in- 
vention. The entire construction of these traps is similar to our 
modern steel traps, even though the materials used are different. 
All steel traps in modern stores, from the simple mouse-trap to 
the huge traps that are used for capturing the largest animals, 
are simply torsion traps which vary only in their construction 
material from those used by their original inventors. 

The Greeks adopted the torsion principle from the Orient. 
It reached a high degree of perfection in the gigantic Roman 
throwing machines (euthytons, catapults , onagers, tollenos). The 
necessary tows consisted of twined sinews, a material even to-day 
used for the wolf and fox traps of the Norton Sound Eskimos. 
The ballistic machines of ancient times were so effective that some 
European museums put theirs at the disposal of their governments 
during the First World War, and they were actually used for the 
throwing of mines. 

The animal trap invented by primitive man has opened so many 
roads to modern technological development that no one who has 
followed the development of this first robot will deny its over- 
whelming importance. The invention of the first animal trap 
was certainly of greater consequence to the history of mankind 
than the invention of the wheel. The application of the newly 
found motive powers in building the animal traps had greater 
consequences than any other single invention in the technological 
history of mankind. 

When was it that early man began to subdue the forces of nature 
to make them work at his command ? It must have been tens 
of thousands of years ago that the genius of early man invented 
traps. There is no people on this earth that does not know of 
one or the other principle for making traps ; even the anthropo- 
logically oldest cultures know them. Prehistoric facts are equally 
conclusive, and sometimes offer us the possibility of dating the 
different kinds of trap devices. 

In the region of the Garonne River of Southern France (especially 
in Dordogne), and across the Pyrenees, in the Basque country of 
Biscaya, certain prehistoric caverns have been discovered which have 
been identified beyond any doubt as the human abodes and places 
of worship occupied during the Later Palaeolithic period of Europe. 
There have been found in these caverns strange examples of the 
art of early man, expecially certain unusual drawings of animals 
like buffaloes and mammoths. Beautifully preserved in their 


glowing red and yellow-ochre colours through the millenniums, 
these pictures offer a strange sight because the animal portraits, 
drawn in very naturalistic style, are always combined with mys- 
terious geometric symbols which sometimes were even painted 
on the animals themselves. A peculiar feature of these repre- 
sentations is the fact that these animal portraits in their combination 
with the geometrical signs did not appear close to the cave entrances, 
but rather, were always found far back in their interior, removed 
from daylight and visible only by means of artificial lighting. The 
hidden locations of these paintings makes it obvious that they 
were not meant to serve as an art gallery of the ice age. Just 
what their purpose was mystified scholars for some time. 

In the search for an answer, scientists made use of certain 
facts. First, it was known that the chief form of economy during 
the Glacial period was that of hunting and that, therefore, the 
animal was pre-eminent in early man's mind. Secondly, the 
hunting habits of such primitive tribes as the arctic peoples, 
the Bushmen, and the Australian aborigines who, though living 
to-day, are still on the same cultural and economic level as the 
Ice Age man, provide clues to and suggest possible explanations 
of the mysterious cave paintings. 

Even to-day, African Bushmen as well as Australian natives 
get together on the evening before a hunt and perform magical 
dances and rites to safeguard its success. A witch doctor is their 
song and show leader. The likeness of the game to be hunted, 
be it kangaroo or antelope, is either drawn in the sand or painted 
with ochre on a rocky wall. The hunters then gather round this 
image and run their spears through the picture of the animal. 
Without this procedure, these tribes are firmly convinced, they 
would be unable to bag animals the following day. In the mind 
of primitive man there is no differentiation between an object and 
its image ; to him the drawn picture and the animal itself are 
identical. Accordingly, the drawn and pierced animal has been 
killed already, and the hunt of the coming day is not much more 
than a formality. 

It is no far-fetched idea, therefore, to interpret the paintings 
inside the caves of palaeolithic man as similar magic hunting rites. 
This view is further supported by the presence in the caves of 
other pictures representing dancing witch doctors wearing animal 
masks, another practice equally frequent among primitive tribes 
of our time who believe that these images favourably influence 
the multiplying of the game and give good luck to the hunter. 

If these same practices were used by the ice-age hunter how 


was he able to hunt such mighty animals as the buffalo and 
mammoth, against which his primitive hunting tools would seem 
inadequate ? This question was solved by modern scientific in- 
terpretation : nowadays those mystical symbols, formerly known 


Ice Age drawings 

After Lips 

In use by primitive peoples of to-day 

as signes obscurs, have found their correct explanation. To-day 
there is no shadow of a doubt left in international science that 
they represent outline drawings of animal traps, recorded so 
realistically tens of millenniums ago by the early inhabitants of 
Europe in their caverns of Spain and France that even the details 
of their construction and the variety of their types are known. 
And we know now that these earliest machines are ten thousand 



to twenty thousand years old. The pictures in the caves originated 
during the third Glacial period and the post- Glacial periods which 
took place in these regions, as science can prove, during the years 

from 20,000 to 8000 B.C. 

In these ancient drawings we recog- 
nize now without difficulty the gravity 
trap (drawn on the body of a gigantic 
buffalo in the cavern of Font-de- 
Gaume) which is in use among to- 
day's primitive tribes all over the 
world. With this same model the 
South African Bushman catches the 
hyena ; the North American Tahltan 
MURALS FROM AN ANCIENT Indian, the wolf ; the Blackfoot Indian, 
EGYPTIAN GRAVE, DEPICT- the jackal ; the East African native of 
ING GAZELLES CAUGHT IN the Maconde Plateau, the antelope ; 

and the Labrador Indian, the bear. 

In terms of world-wide distribution 
and extraordinary age, the spiked-wheel 
trap is certainly the most interesting of 
hunting devices. We find it clearly depicted in many prehistoric 
caves and in ancient Egyptian tombs, as for instance on the mural 
at Hieraconpolis. The Swedish scientist, Lindblom, has traced it 

Hieraconpolis, Egypt 
After J. Kapart 


Cave Font-de-Gaume 
After Capitan, Breuil, and Peyrony 

through Africa and Asia, in Asia as far as the Karakorum, the 
Etsingol, and even the Amur. Frobenius published its likeness 
as shown on the palaeolithic rock paintings of Fezzan, and Breuil's 
pictures from Tabel Bala show its wide use in the Sahara, 


Strange as the idea may seem to some one not familiar with 
the facts of man's first robot, we know now that our utilization of 
the four main power principles, extensively em- 
ployed in our modern technology, originated from 
unknown and unnamed inventors of the Glacial 
period who lived on this earth tens of millenniums 
before our time. Long before Archimedes they 
invented, based upon the application of the laws 
of leverage, the important relay and release 
mechanisms whose analogous application in 
modern machinery can easily be observed by 
any layman, even if their construction has 
undergone considerable improvements. 

Applying the principles of the gravity trap, 
the old Egyptians utilized its general possibilities 
by creating the slot-machine. Heron of Alex- 
andria provides us with the drawing of such a 
machine for the sale of consecrated water. In 
it the inserted coin fell upon a ' trap J lever 
mechanism, thereby opening a flap valve from 
the faucet of which flowed exactly the amount 
of water the coin had paid for. To-day, when 
we receive a sandwich or a postage stamp or a 
package of chewing gum by inserting a coin in 
the slot of a slot-machine, we only prove the 
efficiency of the gravity trap ; the coin assumes 
the role of the animal whose weight regulated by 
the distance of the fall sets the release mechanism 
into motion. The same principle rules the opera- 
tion of the slot-machine, the turnstile, and the 
self-playing gramophone. 

Two modern ' traps ' without primitive fore- 
runners are the ' electric-eye ' gate whose beam Ethnology, Cologne 
of light, when broken by an approaching person's 
shadow, automatically opens a door, and the famed * electronic 
rat-trap/ which has a similar photo-electric mechanism. Both are 
real traps, not 'trap-like catching methods,' since they do not 
require the presence of any human attendant to become effective. 
In both cases, the newly added touch is derived from the elec- 
tronic wizardry of the twentieth century, but the old robot idea 
of exercising power even in the absence of man himself is as old 
as the ice age. 


North Borneo 

Museum of 


This Friendly Earth 

FROM THE BEGINNINGS of time the very subsistence of human 
life has depended upon the gifts which this old earth chooses 
to grant to man. Bread and meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables 
the foundations of our present-day diet are still the same basic 

By courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History , New York 

means of existence as they were when the first human beings 
walked on the earth. Even in our ' Atomic Age ' we have not yet 
been able to create either nectar and ambrosia or the philosopher's 
pill as substitutes for these fundamental foodstuffs. The only 
difference is that the size of our world has shrunk. It is now, 
more than ever, One World. 

When drought dooms the wheat harvests of Argentina and 
Canada or the rice harvests of Burma and Siam ; when the meat 
production of the cattle-producing countries lets us down, starva- 
tion rules the earth exactly as hunger harassed the much smaller 



worlds of primitive men when the buffalo herds stayed away 
from the prairies, when the caribous of the Canadian Indians 
failed to appear, when the waters of the Nile refused to rise in 
Egypt, when glossina, the tsetse-fly, decimated the East African 
herds, when the Siberian reindeer withdrew to the farthest northern 
reaches, when the heat killed the African Bushmen's wild melons, 
when the nardoo seed and the bunya-bunya burned in Australia. 

Although we have created the prerequisites for increasing the 
population of the globe by learning to wrest more food from 
the soil, in principle, our food exploits are still based on the ancient 
practices of our forefathers. Like them, we are still dependent 
upon the products of the vegetable and the animal kingdoms. 
To-day, as millenniums ago, the tilling of the soil and the art of 
husbandry are foundations of our nourishment ; and neither our 
primitive ancestors nor we moderns have been able to overcome 
the hazards of climate. 

All growth of animal and plant food depends on climate to 
the largest extent. Indirectly, all forms of human life are shaped 
by the influences of climate. Man has, therefore, been compelled 
to adjust his habits and possessions and all his material needs to 
the climate into which he was born. Correspondingly, the members 
of the animal kingdom had to adapt their organisms and the 
functions of their bodies to its whims. 

Subjected to probably the most severe climatic changes, and 
consequently to the greatest changes of flora and fauna, was the 
race which for over seventy-five thousand years made the history 
of the Stone Age the race of the Neanderthal man. 'The in- 
genuity of this very ancient race was able to cope with the 
tremendous changes of the climate by a successful economic and 
cultural adjustment to the shifting environment. Although the 
Neanderthal man had not yet developed a knowledge of hus- 
bandry and of the cultivation of plants, it was perhaps just this 
very ignorance which made it possible for him to survive under 
continuously changing conditions. He subsisted on whatever 
nature offered him. 

Characteristic of the form of economy of this early palaeolithic 
man is the common hunt, in which a group of tribesmen joined. 
Plant foods of wild berries, seeds and wild fruits were supplemented 
by the meat of the rhinoceros and mammoth, reindeer and aurox, 
and woolly nasicorn and cave bear. The extant hunting tools 
and weapons of these people indicate that it must have been 
impossible for the individual hunter to kill any of these animal 
giants without the co-operation of others ; hence the collective 


Beating off the kernels of wild rice into the bottom of their canoe 
By courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History, New York 


Harvesting corn 
By courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History New York 


9 1 

hunt. The form of economy of the Ice Age consequently 
necessitated the organization of bands as a prerequisite for the 
survival of the individual. Another factor indicating the co- 
operation of the whole group was the fact that the quantity of meat 
obtained from a single prey animal surpassed by far the needs of 
one individual family and was sufficient to allow its distribution 
beyond the family circle. The reasons for this social practice 
were by no means humanitarian, the * share-all ' being dictated by 
economic need. This method of distribu- 
tion of the hunted game among all had the 
further advantage that, in case of bad hunting 
luck of one group, all could share in the 
benefits obtained by others. With its know- 
ledge of the battue hunt, it was this type of 
society that developed also the first robots, 
the first animal traps. 

This form of economy of the early Palaeo- 
lithic Age, which has been established as the 
indisputably oldest of all forms of economy 
known to man, is by no means extinct to- 
day. It is practised in our time by all those 
primitive tribes whom we call hunters and 
food gatherers. 

Under varied geographic conditions, they 
are scattered all over the globe. They live AUSTRALIAN HUNTER 
in the regions of the tropical, primeval 

forests everywhere : the Pygmies of Africa, the Veddas of Ceylon, 
the Semang and Senoi of the Malacca Peninsula, the Kubu of 
Sumatra, others of South Asia, and in South America numerous 
bands of the Ges family. The Bushmen of South Africa and 
many Australian tribes are the hunters and food gatherers of the 
sub-tropical steppes and deserts. The Fuegians of the extreme 
southern American sea-coast are their sub-arctic counterparts. 
The economic practices of these peoples show distinct relation to 
the varied climatic conditions of their respective habitats. The 
outstanding characteristic is the lack of stability in their lives 
caused by the scarcity of food. To survive, even their smallest 
groups must often exploit large territories, which compels them to 
make continuous migrations. 

At this early stage of social development, a division of labour 
was developed, with the women mainly gathering the vegetal 
products like fruits, bulbs, roots, and seeds, and the men providing 
meat and fish. The women's tool to break the soil for getting 


at bulbs and tubers is the simple digging stick, mostly consisting 
of a pointed branch. The men's hunting weapons are spears and 
clubs and, in some cases, bows and arrows. 

The skill with which they use their primitive tools is amazing 
to an observer. They feel and act, as the explorer Seiwert says of 
the Bagielli, a Pygmy tribe of the Cameroons, like * lords of the 
forest.' Despite their small stature they fearlessly attack chim- 
panzee and gorilla, leopard and buffalo, and even the mighty 
elephant. The same author's description of one of their methods 


Bushman Drawing 

After Stow 

of elephant hunting shows interesting analogies to the mammoth 
hunts of the Ice Age. 

They first cover their entire bodies with fresh elephant dung, 
which enables them to cover up the human scent and to approach 
the animal unsuspectedly. Creeping on their bellies, they advance 
slowly, until they reach the animal itself, to suddenly push with 
great power a poisoned spear into the soft lower parts of its body ; 
whereupon it soon collapses. With their sharp bush-knife they 
then cut off the trunk, and their victim bleeds to death. 

This is just one example of early man's many ingenious methods 
of overcoming by ruse the drawbacks of his primitive equipment. 
He is equally inventive when it comes to the full exploitation of 
available plant foods. As soon as one area has been exhausted 
new quarters are set up in another, until an entire district, often 
several square miles, has been completely exploited. With the 
change of seasons, the gathered products change. Thus in dry 
seasons the Bushmen collect by the thousands ripened spike 





melons growing on the barren sands of the Kalahari, 
melons enable them to live without water. 

A well-established tradition prevents these tribes of the hunting 
and food-gathering stage from devouring everything in sight. 
They discriminate carefully between useful and harmful plants, 
and exclude the latter from their diet. The discovery of a new 
food plant is, to them, a great invention. The cousins Sarasin 
name forty plant and twenty animal species which are used for 
food by the Vedda tribe. The Australian aborigines' usage of 
edible plants is even greater ; 
Thomas mentions three hundred 
of them. 

As for the size of the hunting 
and food-gathering groups, it is 
logical that bands are smallest 
where food conditions are most 
unfavourable, as in Tasmania, 
Australia, and in the arctic region. 
The average Tasmanian group con- 
sisted, according to H. L. Roth, of 
only three or four huts, inhabited 
by three or four individuals each. 
The most numerous group among 
the primitives of Malacca visited by 
Martin had twenty-seven people, p 
Seligman found the Veddas living chaco 
in bands of one to five families. 
According to Malinowski, most Australians roam in small units 
of two or three families, with a total of six to nine persons. With 
more favourable economic conditions, the bands grow in size. 
A Kurnai group of south-eastern Australia was, as Howitt states, 
composed of eight families ; a Wurunjeri group of six. In the 
Bushman territory Passarge found communities living together 
under twelve adjoining windbreaks. The Andamanese settle in 
groups of about fifty individuals. 

But even if we recognize the hunters and food gatherers as 
adherents of the oldest form of economic activity, their way of life 
constitutes by no means ' the beginning/ Their many technical 
skills, their knowledge of weapons, traps, hunting methods, and 
cooking with fire, evidence a long previous development. During 
former centuries man's intellectual superiority had made him 
surpass the animals which are still forced to adjust their bodies to 
the available food in its natural form. Man had found the proper 




methods of preparing what he found in a way most suitable for his 
organism. By changing the raw materials of his diet with the help 
of fire, he made his food tasty and digestible. 

How humanity advanced from this earliest acquisitive economy 
to the higher stage of agriculture and the domestication of animals 
is one of the most fascinating problems of ancient and modern 
science. The scholars of classic Greece pondered over this 
question. They distinguished three forms of economy : their 
own, based on agriculture ; a second, applied by the cattle- 
breeding nomads on the rims of the Grecian world ; and a third, 
the purely acquisitive system of food gathering and hunting. 
But the champions of this conception made the fundamental 
mistake of forcing these three coexistent cultures into a chrono- 
logical sequence. From their error arose the theory of the " three 
stages " of hunting, cattle breeding, and agriculture a theory 
that was widely accepted for many centuries without refutations. 
The initial stage of food gathering and hunting was described 
either as the golden age of paradise or as a semi-animalic period 
of complete savagery. This persistent theory of the three stages of 
human economy was reflected in the eighteenth- century writings 
of Rousseau and Adam Smith. Its nineteenth- century prophets 
were, among others, Friedrich List and the Italian S. Cognetti de 
Martiis, the French expert on prehistory Mortillet, and the Belgian 

However, this old theory and especially its assumption of a 
chronological sequence could no longer be upheld in view of 
the increasing ethnological material and the new scientific facts 
brought in from the field. The works of Ernst Grosse and 
Eduard Hahn especially cast new light upon the different economic 
forms of human society. Yet even to-day the scientific struggle 
about the question of the origin and invention of agriculture and 
cattle breeding has not come to an end. Many scholars still try 
to explain the advance from the acquisitive to a productive form of 
economy with the help of psychological analysis, Taylor, for 
example, believed that the invention of agriculture was no com- 
plicated ' invention ' at all. He held that it was quite natural for 
hunters and food gatherers to sow or plant the familiar seeds and 
roots in a suitable spot. As a consequence of this habit, he argues, 
the roaming hunters and food gatherers settled down, thereby 
laying the foundation for a higher form of existence, culturally 

On a closer view these psychological explanations turn out to 
be mere conjectures. The ethnological facts show with great 


clearness that the psychological preparedness (one of the most 
important elements of which is the capacity to wait for the fruit 
or plant to ripen) to proceed to agriculture was non-existent in 
the minds of the hunters and food gatherers. Whenever and 
wherever benevolent white men have tried to convert acquisitive 
tribes to agriculture the results have always shown that the greatest 
enemies of the new and better form of life were the prospective 
converts themselves. The seeds distributed for planting either 
went directly into the stomach instead of into the soil or, when the 
fields were prepared by white experts, the immature young plants 
were pulled up and eaten on the spot. 

The Brazilian Government chose the Bororo, a hunting and 
food-gathering tribe, as * guinea-pigs ' in an agricultural experi- 
ment. They received soil and seeds. The fields were prepared 
for them by government crews, and they were provided with 
enough additional foodstuffs to subsist until harvest time. What 
happened ? As soon as the natives were the happy possessors 
of axes they had a good time cutting down the Piki trees they 
formerly had to climb in order to pick the fruit. The sugar-cane 
plantations needed permanent sentries to protect them from 
complete destruction. The cassava fields were ruined. The 
women, accustomed to the digging of roots in the forest, pulled up 
the growing shrubs and went to work with their digging sticks, 
looking for * hidden roots.' 

A white missionary who tried to make the African Wasekele, 
a hunting and food-gathering tribe, appreciate the blessings of 
agriculture and Christianity combined, received the shrewd 
rebuke : " Do the monkeys die of hunger ? We know the forests 
and the waterways. We move from place to place, because God 
wants us to. We must not touch a hoe to till the soil, because 
God has forbidden us to do so." Who is not reminded by these 
words of the " lilies of the field " ? 

The Negritos of Luzon who have been persuaded at times to 
try a little planting, " do not want to be tied down to a fixed place," 
Vanoverbergh states. He adds : " Very often, before their plants 
bear fruit, they are already far away in some other part of the 

One of the best examples of the hunters' and food gatherers' 
complete inability to invent or develop agriculture is furnished 
by an old tale of the Pygmies of the Belgian Congo, who, proud 
of their courage and their liberty, regard themselves as superior 
to the agricultural Negroes among whom they live without ever 
adopting their form of economy. The tale, recorded by Schebesta, 


deals with the right of the Pygmies to collect bananas from the 
Negroes' plantations. 

A Pygmy, on his roamings through the forest, came one day to 
a chimpanzee village. He was accompanied by a Negro. There 
they saw, for the first time in their lives, a group of banana-trees 
laden with golden fruit. Since they believed the fruit to be 
poisonous they did not dare to try their taste. The Negro, however, 
kept encouraging his companion, the Pygmy, to find out what their 
taste was like. Finally, the Pygmy ate some and found that they 
were delicious. In spite of this, the Negro still did not dare to 
do likewise. In the evening, as they went to sleep, the Negro was 
convinced that his companion would die of the * poisonous ' fruit 
during the night. To his great surprise, he found him alive in the 
morning. Now, he himself finally dared to eat of the new fruit, 
and he, too, found it excellent. Both thought of ways to take bananas 
along to plant them near their homes. The Pygmy took some of the 
fruit and laughed at the * stupid ' Negro who took some of the shoots 
of the tree for slips. Both went home. The dwarf planted the 
fruits in the wilderness ; the Negro set the shoots in his plantation. 
But the Pygmy waited in vain for his bananas to grow. They rotted 
in the soil, and that was that. How great, however, was his surprise 
when he came months later to the Negro's village where he found 
a group of beautifully grown banana-trees full of fruit ! Nevertheless 
he pointed out to the Negro that he was not a planter and that he 
preferred by far to pursue his hunt. He advised the Negro to go 
on planting bananas because from time to time he would drop in 
to get his share. Since that time, the Bambuti claim the right to 
gather bananas in the Negroes' plantations, because the Pygmies 
are the inventors of the fruit and only through them the Negroes 
learned to eat them. 

These are only a few examples. They demonstrate that con- 
jectures based upon our present-day psychology do not lead us 
anywhere in an effort to determine the step from food gatherers 
and hunters to agriculture and the domestication of animals. 

Another presumption that lingers in the mind of many an 
anthropologist and economist does not clear the way either. This 
is the idea that sedentariness was the result of agriculture. This 
presumption holds that it was not until the invention of agriculture 
that mankind became relatively sedentary and that sedentariness 
was a consequence of, and not a prerequisite for, the invention 
of agriculture. This opinion, too, is a psychological construction 
which is not borne out by the facts. There can be no doubt 
that at least a relative sedentariness was the necessity from which 
an invention of agriculture could derive. Furthermore, the in- 


ventors of the higher forms of economy had to possess the necessary 
psychological readiness, the attitude of waiting for the ripening 
of the fruit. 

What groups of people, then, possess all the psychological and 
factual prerequisites to become the inventors of agriculture ? 

They exist, indeed, furnishing by their type of economy in all 
respects the missing link between hunters and food gatherers, 
on the one side, and the tribes of productive economy, on the 
other. I call them the harvesters. Their food supply is derived 
from the harvesting of one or a few wild plants, which provide their 
chief sustenance for the entire year. They are neither pastoral 
nor agricultural, but base their entire economic system upon the 
harvesting, not just the gathering, of wild plants. 

Harvesting tribes have lived or still live to-day in all five conti- 
nents. The economic form of the later Palaeolithic Age up to 
the beginnings of the Neolithic period was based on the harvesting 
of wild fruits and grains, as numerous excavations have demon- 
strated. In Africa we find to-day scarcely any real harvesters, 
but the old reports indicate that the harvesting of wild plants 
and seeds must have played a certain role in the economy of many 
African tribes. Herodotus reports that the lotus lily was harvested 
by the Egyptians in great numbers, to be dried in the sun, worked 
into flour, and used for the baking of bread. He describes the 
root as tolerably sweet and the size of an apple. Kotschy reports 
from Kordofan that wild rice was harvested to serve for the baking 
of bread. Schweinfurth specifies three different Oryza (rice) 
species which constituted the main source of food in tropical Africa 
without being planted. In the Senegal region harvested wild rice 
is an important item of merchandise on the market-places. It is 
in great demand, and sells at higher prices than the rice obtained 
from agriculture. 

In Australia we find harvesting tribes especially in the far eastern, 
southernmost, and northerly districts. The bases of subsistence 
of these harvesting tribes are the wild yam, the nardoo seed, the 
lily root, the bunya-bunya fruit, the cycas fruit, and others. It is 
significant that these products are either kept in their natural state 
or processed into forms more easily preserved, and that they 
provide the main sustenance for the entire year. They are also 
widely traded. In some instances treatment of food by fermentation 
is known, as among the tribes of the Carpentaria Gulf. This process 
is further developed in Polynesia and among certain arctic tribes. 
In southern and western New Guinea the harvesting fruit is the 
wild sago palm, which is the main source of food for many tribes. 


The ancient reindeer breeders of Asia were probably originally 
fishermen and harvesters before they proceeded to reindeer 


After R. Brough Smyth 

breeding. Even to-day large sections of the arctic regions are 
inhabited by the Chukchee, the Yakut, and the Tungus, in whose 

lives harvested wild roots, 
onions, and garlic play an im- 
portant part. The Chukchee, 
especially, gather the roots and 
the centre portion of Claytonia 
acutifolia Willd in great quan- 
tities. This plant is pickled and 
eaten all year long, up to the 
next harvesting season. The 
Polynesians could not have 
settled on the coral atolls with- 
out the existence of the wild 
bread-fruit tree and the wild 
coco palm. In the Chaco 
region of South America the 
algarroba and the tusca are 
harvested. The Araucanians 
and the ancient Peruvians har- 
vested the wild potato. In a 
prehistoric collection from Peru 
Harshberger found small tubers of this plant, about an inch in 
diameter, very similar to those of the wild-potato plants still 
growing on certain Mexican mountains. 


After Francis Drake 


Among the most important North American harvesting foods 
are wild rice, the pifion nut, and the acorn. These are substituted 
for and supplemented by additional plants, like the pods of the 
mesquite tree, the mescal root, the tule root, and numerous wild 
seeds. East-central Calif ornian tribes mainly subsist on acorns 
and pinons. This accounts for the fact that their tribal histories do 
not speak of famine until recent times, as is the case with many 
hunters and food gatherers, It is, even to-day, a catastrophe for 
the Indians when, as in 1941, there exists a scarcity of the acorns 
from the oak-trees of the San Joaquin Valley. These acorns 
furnish the most important staple food to the members of the Yokuts 
tribe. The records of this event say : " Before the white man 
brought his civilization to this area the acorn meats and acorn flour 
could be kept indefinitely. But now they become frequently grub- 
infested after only a few months. Almost every Indian camp 
and there are still hundreds keeps a big store of dried acorns 
in wicker willow baskets." 

Perhaps the most important harvesting products of the North 
American Indian tribes are the wild rice and wild oats of the 
Lake States region. As early as 1683 Father Hennepin reported 
in his diary : " In the lakes grew an abundance of wild oats, 
without any culture or sowing. The old Indians to-day tell many 
interesting stories in connexion with the rice-fields and that many 
bloody battles were fought between the Chippewas and Sioux for 
the possession of the wild rice beds/' 

According to legend, the wild rice was " provided by the Great 
Spirit to keep the Indians well and strong," and they named 
many streams, lakes, and villages after it. In the Chippewa tongue 
the month August means " the month of harvesting wild rice " 
(Mah-no-nim-e-kay-ge-sis). The harvesting of the wild rice marks 
the central point of the economic life of most Sioux and Algonquin 
tribes of this region. Shortly before the harvest, as Burns reports, 
the green standing rice-stalks are tied into bunches by the women. 
This is done to protect the grain from injury by winds or loss to 
water-fowl, and also to facilitate the subsequent harvesting. When 
it is ripe it is gathered in canoes, which are pushed through the 
rice-fields by means of paddles or long forked poles. The Ojibway 
have legends telling of a horrible time of famine, and of their prayers 
to the Great Spirit, who finally appeared to the medicine man, 
telling him : " Look to the seeds sharp as spears. Sweet food is 
within." This advice was accompanied by detailed directions 
for the gathering, the hulling, and the parching of the grains. 
In appreciation of this miracle, the Ojibway hold their annual 


harvest ritual in honour of the Great Spirit during the rice moon. 
After the rice has been harvested it is thrashed with sticks, dried 
in the sun, parched, cleaned, freed from any chaff, and then stored 
away. The nutlike sweetness of the kernel makes wild rice 
extremely delicious. 

In contrast to the hunters and food gatherers who roam within 
the tribal territory and live from hand to mouth, these peoples 
store food during times of plenty, in anticipation of times of need. 
Their living- quarters are more solid than those of the older 
acquisitive economic group. They stay at one place, namely near 
the harvesting field, which comprises often many hundreds of 
square miles. Whatever types of fruit are harvested by whatever 
tribes, the shape of their form of economy has exerted the strongest 
influence upon the development of all their cultural possessions. 
Most important are their caches and storage houses for the safe- 
guarding of the harvested fruits. 

Although they have no planned agriculture, their attitude 
towards the wild plant is different from that of the food gatherers 
and hunters ; it is similar to the mental approach of the agricul- 
tural peoples. In songs and ceremonies the harvested fruit is 
celebrated and asked to multiply, for the harvesters are vitally 
interested in its survival. In western Australia shoots of some 
wild yams are put back into the soil during the harvest ; and 
the Ojibway strew some of the harvested rice back into the water 
so that it may help them towards the next harvest. The Pacific 
owners of wild coconut palms clear the soil to make room for 
new shoots when an old tree has been felled. 

The harvesting field becomes the centre of tribal life and of 
social activity. The security of subsistence is responsible for 
the increasing number of tribal members : the communities are 
much larger than those of the food gatherers and hunters. 
Winnebago settlements of three hundred are no exception, and 
the communities of the Obotos and Wakatimi of New Guinea 
consist of a thousand people who live off the wild sago palm. 
In America the wild-rice region has been the centre of expan- 
sion of the Sioux and Algonquin tribes. In Polynesia, the wild 
bread-fruit tree was responsible for the migration of many ethnic 

Only these peoples who harvest without sowing, but who harvest 
in exactly the same manner as do the agricultural tribes, can be 
regarded as the original inventors of agriculture. In addition, 
the economy of the harvesters offered the prerequisite for the 
invention of cattle breeding. The hunters and food gatherers, 



continuously harassed by the need of the moment, cannot afford 
a friendly attitude towards their prey animals. In order to survive 
they have to kill whatever is in sight. The harvesters' main sub- 
sistence, however, is guaranteed by the harvesting fruit. They can 
look upon the wild animal with a different and 
friendly attitude. 

Thus the peoples of the harvesting culture 
alone have fulfilled the prerequisites for a de- 
velopment of agriculture and the domestication 
of animals. It is very likely that the arts of 
agriculture and of stock breeding have de- 
veloped from this progressive, acquisitive form 
of economy. Perfected in the course of history 
throughout suitable regions of the globe, this 
economy was finally united with the character- 
istic feature of the high cultures the tilling of 
the soil with the plough. The exact place 
where ideal conditions led to the invention 
of agriculture cannot be determined to-day, 
although many indications seem to suggest the 
southern or central region of Asia. 

Since we have certain proof from the early 
neolithicum of the existence of agriculture we Value - 
can date back its earliest developments to about 
the fifth millennium before the birth of Christ. 
The scientists Heine- Geldern and Menghin have 
determined the so-called " culture of the cylin- 
drical hoe " (Walzenbeilkultur) as the oldest neo- 
lithic basis of productive agricultural economy 
which spread all over the earth from its pre- 
sumably oldest places of distribution in southern 
Central Asia, probably China. Its name is derived 
from a mostly edged stone tool, the cylindrically 
shaped hoe, a hatchet with a circular transverse section, a sharpened 
blade, and a round or conical back. 

The distribution of this culture is, indeed, of global proportions. 
Its mighty waves penetrated Asia and Europe, including all regions 
of eastern and southern Asia, and the Melanesian island groups. 
Though determined by local conditions, the agricultural economies 
of the cylindrical-hoe culture were most often combined with the 
raising or breeding of pigs. This means that if wild boars were 
obtainable they were caught and possibly bred ; mostly, however, 
they were kept in hurdles until needed for food. This explains 


1500 cowrie 

After Thorbecke 

(Bottom) HOE 


New Guinea 

Museum of 
Ethnology , Cologne 



the fact that at most places of excavation the pigs' bones dis- 
covered were boars' bones rather than those of domesticated 

As to the types of earliest plants systematically cultivated by man, 
it is uncertain whether they were shrubs, bulbs, tubers, or trees. 
Werth believes that in South Asia the banana-tree 
may be considered the oldest domesticated plant. 
According to Brunton, the most ancient cultivated 
grain was the emmer wheat. It was used in 
Egyptian agriculture as far back as 5000 B.C. It 
is hardly possible to determine the age of culti- 
vated bulbs or shrubs by means of prehistoric 
findings but these findings furnish more accurate 
facts when it comes to the oldest cultivated grains. 
Drawings of ears of corn and of cultivated grains 
dating back to the early Neolithic Age have been 
discovered ; and the excavations at Anau, in Trans - 
caspia, have proved that the cultivation of barley 
was known as early as 4500 B.C. Among the 
cultivated plants of the Neolithic Lake Dwellers 
of Switzerland were the midget wheat, the emmer, 
the one-corned grain, two species of barley, and 
one kind of millet. Furthermore, they cultivated 
peas and lentils, flax, poppy-seed, and a type of 
grafted apple-tree. 

Whatever the identity of the oldest cultivated 
fruits or plants may have been, the earliest form 
of agriculture, still ignorant of the plough, knew 
only the hoe and, occasionally, still used the 
ancient digging stick. The name of this form of 
economy has been derived from the hoe, which 
usually consisted of a handle with a stone, shell, 
or iron blade. 

Even to-day the distribution of the hoe cul- 
tures is on a tremendous scale, with tropical 
Africa, America, Indonesia, and Oceania as its 
principal regions. Among the most frequently cultivated plants 
are bulbs and tubers, like yams, manioc, batata, taro, and potato. 
Among the grains, maize (corn), rice, and durrha are the most 
prominent. The number of species cultivated by one tribe is, 
as a rule, quite limited. One single type of plant usually is so 
dominant that it alone furnishes the principal basis of economic 
existence. This does not mean that this principal plant is 


(Top) Found at 

After Ddchelette 

Cylindrical Hoe 

After O. Menghin 



not supplemented by other produce of lesser importance, 
spices and narcotic plants are cultivated almost anywhere. 

If we ask the primitive agriculturists about the origin of their 
kitchen plants and the age of their economy they will all answer 
that their ancestors knew plants and agriculture from times un- 
known, as the ancient myths and sagas prove. The Tupi claim 


Photo Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

that the manioc shrub emerged blooming from a grave. The 
Bakairi believe that the same plant was given to them by the 
bogadu fish, living in a near-by river. Gods and ghosts, animals 
and heroes share the mythical glamour of having blessed humanity 
with the fruits and plants of agriculture, those all-important gifts 
from above. 

There can be no doubt that the invention of agriculture marks 
one of the greatest contributions woman Has made toward the 
welfare of mankind. It was woman who in the acquisitive economy 
already took care of the provision of the family with vegetal food ; 
it was woman who, consequently, put the great new invention of 
sowing and planting into practice. Of course, the male habit 


of hunting did not stop with the introduction of agriculture, but 
continued as in the times of old, even though the chief nourish- 
ment of the tribes was taken care of by cultivated plants. 

The clearing of a new field, the first planting or sowing, and 
even the determination of the spot destined to become a field, 
are often the occasion for elaborate festivities, especially because 
the whole village population takes active part in agricultural 

New Zealand 
After Taylor 

When it comes to deciding on a proper spot for a new field 
the Nad'a of Western Flores (Sunda Islands), for instance, take 
no chances. They use their indispensable oracle, a bamboo stick 
called tibo, which when allowed to crack in the fire, ' tells/ by 
the size and direction of the crack, what they should do. They 
address the tibos in the following way : " Tibo, we wish to lay 
out a new field. If there is something wrong with the path leading 
to it or if the plot contains anything harmful please tell us by 
cracking at your upper right ! " If the answer is satisfactory 
the work is started without delay. 

When a tribe of the hoe culture has decided where the new 
field is to be everybody celebrates by singing and dancing, often 
under the leadership of the medicine man. Next morning they 


start out to commence the work. A section of forest, bush, or 
steppe is cleared ; trees are cut down with the stone-bladed hoe, 
with the roots remaining in the soil. The cleared-away branches 
and shrubs are burnt on the spot ; the ashes are raked into the 
ground to serve as fertilizer. The women have the picnic baskets 
ready, while the entire male population does the heavy work. 
When the field is cleared, often after days of hard work, the 
women take over the planting. At this point, all kinds of magical 
performances serve to safeguard the growth of the all-important 
plant. The Nad'a, again consulting their tibo y have an especially 
appealing way of inviting the " souls of the cultivated plants 
to assemble on the field." " Tibo," they say to the little 
bamboo stick, " we have now cleared the 
whole big field. All weeds have been 
pulled up, all shrubs are burned. It is 
clean. We now invite the souls to come 
to this place, laden with rice, so that we 
may have a rich harvest. We want the 
beams of the storage-houses to break under 
the weight of the rice and the floors to cave 
in. Please, Tibo, promise us such a har- 
vest. If you say yes, crack to your lower STORAGE CONTAINERS 
left ! " It is now up to the women to put Ovambo, Africa 

the seeds into the soil. Photo Museum of 

Among the South American Indians, Ethnology, Cologne 
pieces of mandioca stems are planted in 

the soil so that they may grow into the mandioca shrub. The 
ripe tubers are harvested as needed, and a new slip is immediately 
put back into the spot from which the grown vegetable was 
removed. The plantations are kept in extremely good shape, and 
many a white man has been impressed by their neatness. A 
Christian bishop, visiting the native fields near the Xire river, in 
Portuguese East Africa, remarked : " I thought to be able to teach 
these black fellows a few things ; now I see how much I can learn 
from them." 

Despite this care, it is still the rule among most tribes of the 
hoe cultures to abandon the fields after one or two harvests and 
to move on to clear a new field, although some Congo tribes and 
also some Melanesians now apply a regular succession of crops. 
The African sequence may, for instance, be the following : beans 
on a newly cleared plantation, with spiked millet sown after the 
harvest. Manioc shoots are planted among the millet ; the 
growing tubers are usable for about two years. When they begin 


to lignify a new field is cleared elsewhere and the succession of 
crops begins anew. 

Many primitive tribes of the hoe culture are well aware of the 
benefits of fertilizing. Some of the East African Bantu use cattle 
dung for this purpose. Livingstone noticed that the Zambesi 
peoples fertilized their fields with charred weeds. The North 
American Indian tribes of New England used fish and shells. 
The Incas of Peru knew the beneficial effects of guano dug into 
the fields ; the ancient Mexicans made use of human excrement. 

The flower garden as a manifestation of aesthetic taste has its 
earliest origin in the hoe culture. Vines and blossoms are planted 
on the rims of the fields or, as among the Papua, between the fruit- 
trees. These first efforts reached perfection in the floating gardens 
in the Lake of Mexico and of the legendary Queen Semiramis. 

The other branch of productive economy which has since its 
inception moulded world economy and world history is the 
domestication of animals and the breeding of live stock, especially 

One might assume that the art of animal domestication and 
cattle breeding developed out of the hoe culture. This is not 
true. The oldest data on domestication, as well as the structure 
of the hoe culture itself, militate against this supposition. The culture 
and mentality of the herdsmen are diametrically different from those 
of the agriculturists. The fact that we may find an occasional 
flock of tamed animals in some present-day villages of the hoe 
culture does not prove that they have been bred there. They 
were merely caught in the wilderness and tamed. 

Chickens and pigs may very likely claim a special position, 
because they are non-migratory. Neolithic findings show us that 
wild jungle fowl and wild boars were kept and corralled in large 
numbers until the demands of the kitchen necessitated their 
killing. However, the practice of regular animal breeding encoun- 
tered among peoples of the hoe culture was adopted from the 

The dog, the oldest domesticated companion of man, played 
the same role during the Palaeolithic Age. His forefather is the 
wolf. The' oldest centre of the dog's domestication lay in northern 
Asia. The dog migrated from there to Europe during the ice age. 
Already domesticated, he arrived in America with the first human 

The breeding of horses, cattle, and sheep developed at places 
where the suitable wild species were abundant. The high plains 
within and northward of the central Asiatic mountain chains 


offered favourable conditions. Flohr and Menghin believe that 
the regions of western Turkestan up to the plateaux of Tibet 
were the scene of the development of cattle breeding ; and, indeed, 
even the present-day type of Tibetan yak breeding has all the 
ear-marks of a very ancient pastoral culture. The earliest known 
domesticated species of cattle is the long-horned type, which can 
be traced back to the wild species of the Asiatic aurox. The 
domestication of sheep, and later of goats, also seems to have 
originated in that particular part of the globe. 

North of the region of the first cattle breeders, in the Altai 
Mountains and in the steppes of the Kirgis and Barabas, the 
culture of the horse and camel breeders found its earliest develop- 
ment. From there it expanded, as an unbroken complex, to 
the west as far as the steppes of south-eastern Russia and to the 
Caucasus ; in the East it reached the Gobi Desert. Although 
horses and camels were originally used as beasts of burden and 
as providers of milk, no independent economic form could possibly 
develop from the unstable form of life of these tribes, who were 
sometimes even unable to provide enough food for their animals. 
Consequently, we find that the breeders of riding animals live 
practically without exception in symbiosis with tribes adhering 
to the economic forms of harvesting, of agriculture, and of cattle 
breeding. There can be no doubt, however, that the breeding of 
horses was customary on the plateaux of Central Asia as early as 
the fifth pre-Christian millennium that is, towards the end of the 
European ice age. 

The culture of the cattle-breeding peoples proved to be of 
world-embracing influence, whether actively through the migration 
of the tribes, or passively through the mere adoption of their 
economic form by others. Archaeological discoveries, especially 
those described by Pumpelly, have thrown much light on the 
structure of the oldest cattle-breeding cultures. The findings 
at Anau, near Ashabad, in Transcaspia, disclosed at a forty- 
five-foot depth a lower layer with very well preserved remnants 
of a cattle-breeding culture dating back to about 3500 B.C. Since 
evidences of barley and wheat as cultivated plants have been found 
in equally ancient habitats it may be assumed that the Anau culture 
represents already a blending of the agricultural economy and the 
cattle-breeding economy, and that the latter is of an even older age. 

The diffusion of the cattle-breeding cultures from their original 
places of development took place by active migrations, chiefly in 
a southerly direction. Europe and Eastern Asia, although adopting 
the principles of cattle breeding, did not take over the whole 


cultural complex of the herdsmen's culture. The southernmost 
representatives of the Asiatic cattle breeders are the Toda in the 
Nilgiri Hills of southern India. The main stream of the herds- 
men's migration went to Iran, to Mesopotamia, to Syria, and to 
Africa. In Africa proper the herdsmen spread from the North- 
east to Egypt and, in fewer numbers, north across the continent 
to the Canary Islands. Their strongest waves of migration went 
to East Africa and to the south, avoiding tropical Central Africa. 
The animals bred were principally cattle, serving as both Beasts of 
burden and mounts. 

Thus, the main African form of economy is the breeding of 
cattle, while Asia favours the breeding of sheep and yak. As a 
rule, the herd is considered a manifestation of wealth which 
should not be diminished by slaughterings without urgent reasons. 
Consequently milk, hair, wool, and dung are the principal products, 
with less emphasis put on meat. 

The two main branches of productive economy, agriculture 
and animal breeding, developed out of the economic form of 
harvesting. They met and merged in vast regions of the globe. 
Only in their final merger were all prerequisites for an economic 
conquest of the earth achieved. Yet if it had not been for the 
invention of the plough the utilization of immense spaces of the 
earth would not have been accomplished to make possible the feed- 
ing of ever-growing populations. The invention of the plough 
and the harnessing of animal power mainly cattle and, later, 
horses to pull it enabled man to lay out larger fields, suitable 
as bases for a truly productive form of agriculture. The plough 
itself is an application of the mechanical principle of the hoe and 
of a peculiar spade form of the digging stick. Its earliest evidences 
go back to the third millennium B.C. It was known to the farm- 
ing peoples of the Danube region with their so-called culture of 
* band-ceramics/ During the same epoch it was already used by 
the Indo-European tribes. 

The first development of the plough culture occurred at but 
one time in history and at but one place before it spread to other 
regions of the globe. The place of its first inception was, most 
probably, the region of the high cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt. 

In its most ancient form the plough consists of wood in the 
shape of two forked branches, although even the oldest Neolithic 
specimen indicates the use of a ploughshare fashioned of stone. 
This is not surprising, since the hoe itself was equipped with a 
blade of stone or shell. Even to-day primitive wooden ploughs 
are still in use in some regions, for instance in the east and south- 



east of Europe. The frequent supposition that the invention 
of the wheel or of the cart had anything to do with the invention 
of the use of the plough is not correct. Originally the plough 


was used without a wheel. Even to-day the ploughs of the Batak 
of Sumatra and of the Chinese and Japanese are not equipped with 

The plough was unknown in ancient America, probably on 


Photo Museum of Ethnology , Cologne 

account of the non-existence of draught animals. In the American 
high cultures of Mexico and Peru the economic form of the hoe 
cultures developed into horticulture and the building of terrace- 
shaped fields. 

The most characteristic features of the plough culture are the 
systematic fertilizing of the soil and the development of intricate 
irrigation systems. Not before the end of the eighteenth century 
did sweeping innovations modernize the ancient plough. Then 
finally the wooden parts were replaced by iron or steel. Several 
ploughs were combined in a single unit. Later ploughs came 
to be operated by mechanical power, such as steam-engines and 


Thus ends the saga of economy, the story of the development 
of one of the most important forces which make it possible for 


Ancient Egypt (El Kah) 

After Treidler-Herodot 

men to live in ever-increasing numbers on the earth. The plough 
and the knowledge of cattle breeding have not only enabled the 
peoples who own the great global granaries and live-stock resources 
to feed themselves, but they have also made them trustees of the 
needs of modern mankind as a whole. 


Invention and the Early Trades 

GOETHE SAYS IN Faust: " No created mind can penetrate the 
innermost sanctum of nature. " In recent years this has per- 
haps become no longer true. Our ability to photograph cellular 

By courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History, New York 

growth and our newly acquired knowledge of the forces controlling 
the universe have enabled us to lift the veil from some of the 
fundamental secrets of creation to such a degree that warning 
voices like Winston Churchill's express the great twentieth-century 
fear of our very progress : " The Dark Ages may return, the Stone 
Age may return on the gleaming wings of science, and what might 
now shower immeasurable material blessings upon mankind may 
even bring about its total destruction. " 


Were these dark ages really so ' dark ' ? The difference between 
them and our time lies in the attempt of modern man to elevate 
himself to the role of master of the universe. In bygone ages 
nature was the omnipotent master of man, who derived his know- 
ledge and his early skills from the phenomena be observed in his 
natural surroundings. He was the apprentice of the greater forces 
around him. But even then the functions of his brain enabled 
him to create spiritual and material possessions worthy of the term 
* Homo sapiens ' and completely out of reach of the ingenuities 
of the animal kingdom. 

Elephants have been observed ripping branches from trees 
with which to strike pursuing dogs. We are familiar with the 
achievements of the beaver, that master-builder. We know of 
the tiny American wasp that uses a pebble, as a regular tool, to 
pound the protecting soil over the pit containing its eggs but 
are these animal activities evidences of planned thinking ? Are 
these intelligent uses of natural objects actually inventions ? 

Shrewd as they are, these animals take their tools just as nature 
provides them. They remain ignorant of man's art of manufacturing 
things out of the materials of nature by giving them new shapes 
and new possibilities of application. The animals may be users, 
but they are not inventors. 

Since the ice age man knew how to transform the raw materials 
he found into tools that raised his living standards to a level far 
above that of his lowly brethren, the animals. 

No Aristotle, Galileo, Volta, Edison, or Bell of the primitive 
past can be individually recognized and honoured as an early 
inventor. No one man's * brainstorm ' was responsible for the 
first stone axe, the first woven basket, the first windbreak, or the 
first fur coat. All these inventions were links in a chain forged 
by the gradual perfection of the experiences of long generations 
of unsung inventors. They were the result of many different 
combinations. We have no right to assume that every prehistoric 
individual was a genius who invented for himself whatever he 

No commonplace is less defined than the saying, " Necessity 
is the mother of invention." Climatic conditions, psychological 
preparedness, and migrations of ideas and of peoples were among 
the decisive factors that promoted or hampered the diffusion of 
technical knowledge. Snow-shoes and sledges could not be 
invented in the jungle ; fans and ore-melting furnaces could not 
originate in the ironless arctic. A Bushman genius, however 
bright, was not ready to work out the loom or the storage-house ; 


the Australian aborigines could not make felt or conceive of sleeping 
in a hammock. Although the possession of these skills would have 
meant improvement in their living standards, their minds were not 
yet ready for them. Even if taught these secrets they would 
abandon them quickly, just as the primitive Pygmies look down 
upon the agricultural Negroes around them. 

The independent invention of a cultural element or the adoption 
of an invention from another culture have one prerequisite in 
common : that a psychological preparedness must exist in the 
mentality of the prospective adopters ; otherwise a new cultural 
possession will be neither invented nor accepted. Independent 
invention and adoption are distinguished from each other by the 
simple fact that invention is the result of creative process, while 
adoption indicates merely a receptive nature. A few examples 
may serve to illustrate this point. The structure of the Japanese 
culture, for instance, was such that Japan adopted many cultural 
elements from Western civilization even the most modern 
weapons while the cultures of, let us say, the Bushmen, the 
Australians, or the Fuegians never would have been ready to accept 
such inventions. The gap between the two cultures is too great. 

On the other hand, primitive cultures have accepted some 
elements from foreign civilizations without understanding their 
original meanings. In Africa a safety-pin maybe an ear ornament ; 
a gramophone a materialized choir of ghosts. A European watch 
may be an amusing pattern for circular ornaments. 

Another point which is worth stressing in regard to the diffusion 
of cultural elements is the difference between invention and 
modification, the first being something entirely new ; the second, 
merely an improvement of an older invention. It is often very 
difficult to determine the original place of an early invention. 
Diffusion has taken place on such a tremendous scale that we find 
to-day, in entirely different regions of the world, cultural centres 
where not only tools, houses, and objects of daily use are completely 
alike, but also where they are complemented by the same religious, 
economic, ethical, and social conceptions. 

Most technical possessions of our modern civilization in one 
way or another have their roots in the ancient inventions reaching 
back in an unbroken chain to the dawn of time. Although many 
of the old techniques have been outmoded by perfected manu- 
facturing processes, a great number of man's earliest possessions 
continue to be used to-day in the same manner or with but little 
change ; others were used by primitive man for centuries before 
the white man learnt about them. 


Among the discoveries and inventions of North and South 
American Indians made before the arrival of the white man 
Nordenskiold listed especially the recognition and utilization 
of food plants like the maize, the manioc, the potato, the sun- 
flower, the artichoke, and the bean. The Indians domesticated 
the llama, alpaca, guinea-pig, musk duck, and turkey. Cocaine 
as well as cotton was known to them. The hammock is their 
invention, as is the rubber ball, and a method of manufacturing 
waterproof fabrics. They brewed deadly poisons like curare and 
obtained poison gas from cayenne pepper, for use as a weapon 
of war. 

Long before Coue and his " every day, in every way," the 
medicine-men of the jungle cured their patients by auto-suggestive 
methods. At a time when white surgeons lost 90 per cent, of their 
patients in attempts at trepanation North African natives knew how 
to open the human skull with complete safety. They were equally 
skilled performers of the Caesarean operation. Centuries before 
the Nobel Prize was awarded to Wagner- Jauregg for his method of 
treating general paralysis of the insane, caused by syphilis, with 
inoculations of malaria East African natives sent their syphilitics 
* into the swamps ' where they contracted the beneficial fever. 

And, corresponding to our manifestations of * utter luxury/ 
native telephones built from pumpkin shells and rat skins are an 
old African possession. Eskimos telephone with skin-covered 
containers over distances as great as one hundred and twenty-five 
feet. Air-conditioning towers of the type described by Marco Polo 
as " artificial lungs, shaped like squat staples," are still common- 
place in the Bahrein of to-day. Modern dark spectacles have 
nothing on primitive eye-shades. In the Arctic split bones or pieces 
of wood protect the eyes from snow-blindness ; woven eye-shades 
of all shapes are common in Melanesia and Polynesia and in South 
America, with thin black-felt veils as their Tibetan counterparts. 

Hundreds of generations of artisans laid the foundations for our 
modern material luxuries when they went about manufacturing the 
first objects of comfortable living from stone, wood, bone, plant 
fibre, and animal skins. A study of at least the major early industries 
is interesting indeed, because it tells the story of the beginnings of 
the things of which we are proud to-day. 

When the layman strolls through the collections of any ethno- 
logical museum he is confronted with a multitude of objects manu- 
factured from materials of such diversity that he may give up the 
attempt to answer for himself the question that might have in- 
spired his visit : " What were the earliest handicrafts known and 


what materials were used by the oldest craftsmen of human 
history ? " 

The objects accidentally preserved through the millenniums do 
indeed easily lead us astray. Too often we forget that only those 
materials whose very struc- 
ture made them withstand 
the decay that comes to 
everything made of ' dust/ 
be it the flesh of man or 
the fibres of plants, could 
survive the ages. Long be- 
fore the Stone Age another 


Western South Wales, Australia 

After F. D. McCarthy 
working material, wood, was 
as abundant as it is to-day and as subject to decay. From the 
brethren of prehistoric man, from the now extinct Tasmanians, 
and from the living Australians and their food-gathering relatives 
of other continents, we can easily learn that at the dawn of time 
the Age of Wood prevailed. If we assume that the Ages of Iron, 


Island Truk (Carolines) 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 


After G. Tessmann 

of Bronze, and of Polished Stone lasted about three thousand 
years each we can safely state that the preceding Age of Chipped 
Stone and its probable forerunner, the Age of Wood, extended 
over longer periods. This does not mean that the functions of 
wooden tools and implements were in later eras completely re- 
placed by other materials. The contrary is the case, as our 
modern furnishings show. It only means that wood was the 
earliest working material available and the easiest to tackle with 
the existing tools. 


The universal use of wood dominated the material possessions 
of the oldest man, just as is the case to-day in many regions. Since 
there were available no adequate tools to shape 
the wood as nature furnished it into pieces of 
finer carpentry, the working of the more pliable 
bark assumed great importance, especially when 
it came to building larger objects like wind- 
breaks and canoes. Shells, animal teeth l bones 
and crude stones helped to fashion the desired 
pieces. It is astounding to see what primitive man 
could and still does achieve in his woodwork 
without the benefit of metal blades and nails. 

Many houses of primitive man, even in higher 
cultures, are joined together by binding. Bark 
objects are either stitched together with sinews 
or fibres, or glued and cemented in a surpris- 
HEAD-SHAPED CUP ingly durable fashion. Large wooden containers, 
like signal drums or boats, are fashioned from 
solid trunks and hollowed out by fire. 

About the oldest wooden tool of man is 
the digging stick, his indispensable helper on 
daily food-gathering expeditions. It is a simple 
with a pointed end, occasionally forked and 
in the fire. Derived from it is the wooden 

Southern Congo 

Museum of 
Ethnology, Cologne 

wooden branch 
often hardened 
spear which served in the hunt, the other early food-gathering 

Southern Congo 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 


South Seas 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

activity of primitive man. The points of wooden spears are 
hardened over a flame to such a degree that they are sometimes 
superior to those of flint-stone or even metal. The Asiatic method 
of soaking bamboo spears in oil and hardening them in hot ashes 


results in metal-hard points. During recent uprisings in the Far 
East such spears have effectively competed with the white man's 

Derived from the parrying stick that warded off a blow, the shield 
is a later addition to the family of wooden implements. It has 
undergone many variations of shape and material as, for instance, 
the African leather shields. Another multi-shaped weapon is the 
wooden club, used by all primitive tribes in scores of forms from 
the simple root or branch to the ceremonial dance clubs of the 
South Seas, which are painted and engraved and trimmed with 
tassels, fringes and feathers. Even the Australians have specimens 
of graceful and efficient shape, decorated with a multitude of 
geometrical engravings. Their boomerang or ' come-back-club ' 
makes use of a complicated physical principle ; with each of its 
ends on a different plane, it utilizes the principle of the screw. 

Most of the primitive household gadgets of wood are not very 
different from our own. Among them are spoons and ladles, bowls 
and plates, and the like. Even wooden forks occasionally are used, 
although in limited areas and not as an ordinary eating tool, but as 
a ceremonial object. In the three-spiked form it is used among the 
cannibals of the South Seas for the handling of human flesh. 
Finger-bowls, trays, and boxes of redwood belong to the equipment 
of the Californian Yurok household. Head-rests, stools, and large 
storage-boxes are found among large groups of peoples on all 
continents, and smartly carved African Tikar sandals have all the 
ear-marks of elegance and can be compared very favourably with 
our modern beach models. The magnificent house posts, dance 
masks, drums, and household containers of Polynesia are all carved 
without the benefit of metal tools, the only technical aids being 
shells, coarse fish skins, sand, and pumice. Since the African 
natives knew about the smelting of iron even before the white man, 
they have achieved, in their famed bowls, house posts, furnishings, 
and idols, such perfection of form and workmanship that the native 
art academies of the jungle nowadays attract students from the 
white world. 

Although the techniques of wood manufacture became more 
clearly differentiated in the high cultures, especially with the 
addition of the plane and the grooving of fitted parts, they did not 
change in principle. The primitive wooden animal trap, bow and 
arrow, and countless other wooden articles have not only inspired 
imitation by the white man but have also served often as ' blue 
prints ' for their later manufacture in other materials. 

The most easily managed wooden raw material is bark. Bark 



built the earliest home of man, the windbreak ; bark makes the 
baskets and containers of many tribes ; it is to some people the 
most important material of all. The entire material possessions of 


African Gold Coast 

Sammlung fur Vdlkerkunde der Universitdt Zurich 

the Indians of Labrador depend, except for animal skins, on two 
working materials : bark and wood. They could not obtain the 
skins of their game animals without the help of their birch-bark 

canoes and their wooden sleds . Prac- 
tically their entire household equip- 
ment is fashioned from birch bark, 
neatly * tailored ' in geometrical 
fashion. This bark is cut with 
beaver teeth and stitched together 
with split pine roots, animal sinews, 
or leather strings. Glues of resin 
make their vessels watertight, and 
scraped ornaments depicting animal 
figures, mythical characters, and 
geometrical shapes decorate them in 
a pleasant effect of contrasting dark 
and light brown. Thickened blue- 
berry jam, bear grease, and the famed 
pemmican are kept safe from insects, 
dirt, or moisture in covered con- 
tainers which are equally sturdy and 
pretty to look at. 

Perhaps the most important use 
of bark is the transformation into 
bark cloth by the process of soaking and pounding, which results in 
a smooth material fit for clothing a substitute for woven fabrics. 
This type of bark cloth, sometimes used in the more advanced 
cultures but unknown to the hunters and food gatherers, is manu- 
factured in Africa and Madagascar. Its most important centres of 
distribution are in Indonesia and Polynesia, where it is known as 


Bathurst Island, Australia 

After F. D. McCarthy 


tapa. It may have been from Indonesia and Polynesia that the 
knowledge of it migrated to North and South America. It was 
known to many prehistoric peoples of Europe and Asia. 

Tapa is manufactured from the bark of trees containing bast, 
such as the bread-fruit-tree, the fig-tree, and the mulberry-tree. 
After the bark has been stripped off the trunk it is softened by 
soaking and then pounded into a light, pliable fabric with the help 
of special clubs, beaters, or mallets. The finished product is finer 


Montagnais-Naskapi, Labrador 

Collection Julius E. Lips 

in texture than many a product of the loom. In Polynesia it is 
decorated with multicoloured ornaments of singular regularity and 
beauty, sometimes painted, sometimes printed on with stencils of 
wood or bamboo. In Africa the bark mallet is often made from a 
part of an elephant tusk. Pulverized redwood is beaten in as a dye. 
The main use of bark cloth is as a material for wearing apparel. 
The North-west American Indians use cedar bark, which they 
loosen from the tree with bone scoops and pound with fluted bone 
beaters. Many of their painted dance blankets are manufactured 
from cedar-bark cloth, and the bark fibres are often woven into 
their blankets made chiefly of dog's and goat's hair. 

The method of fashioning bark cloth from beaten bast has 
influenced, if not inspired, the Chinese invention of paper, the 
earliest samples of which consist of mulberry bast with added plant 
fibres. It also is responsible for the invention of the Egyptian 
papyrus, a product obtained by the pounding and gluing of reeds. 




Equally ancient as the use of wood and bark for the fashioning of 
man's oldest belongings is the universal utilization of bone, horn, 
shells, and animal teeth as earliest tools. In the older Palaeolithic 
Age bone knives, shafts fashioned from horn, scrapers and planes 
of shell were abundant. Entire prehistoric periods have been 

named after the dominant bone 
tools of these eras. Sockets of 
bone joints served as containers 
for paints and greases." The 
tooth-studded jaws of the cave 
bear made effective weapons. 
Harpoon hooks, awls, spoons, 
scrapers, and needles were 
fashioned from bones in ex- 
actly the same manner that 
primitive tribes of to-day 
utilize the same material for 
the same purposes. 

Bone awls serve to-day's 
Australians in the manufacture 
of coiled baskets ; pig's ribs are 
' needles ' on the Santa Cruz 
Islands ; fur scrapers made of 
thigh-bones are a universal 
tool of the American Indians 
from California to Labrador. 
Bone knives are customary in 
the jungles of eastern Bolivia, 
with a monkey thigh - bone 
serving as a handle and the 

Central Celebes 

tooth of the hochi hare as a 

Santa Cruz 

After Islands 

Nordenskiold Museum of 

Ethnology, Cologne blade. The Canadian hunters 
have a similar tool, with a 

beaver tooth at the work end and a handle of wood or bone. Tools 
of this type have not undergone any changes in appearance ; they 
are used to-day as they have been since the dawn of time. 

The chipped-stone implements among the earliest Palaeolithic 
findings show such purposeful workmanship that we must assume 
that even they were the results of previous periods of development. 
The word ' Palaeolithicum ' itself (from the Greek palaios, ' old ' ; 
and lithos, ' stone ') stands for the conception of the age of the * old ' 
or chipped-stone implements, while the younger ' Neolithicum ' 
is the period of the ' younger ' or polished stone tools. 


Fiji Archipelago 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 




Early Palaeolithic 

After Hazzledine 




Bone Tools of the Fuegians 
After K. Weide 

Fur Scraper 
(Caribou Leg-bone) 


Collection A f ter 

Julius E. Lips 

Bone Needle 

and Awl 




The oldest unpolished stone implements show shell-like chip- 
pings of great diversity. Their purpose can easily be determined 
by the shapes man knew how to give them. They were scrapers, 
scorpers, blades, and the like, whose wooden handles, shafts, 
etc., could not survive the ages. Arrow points of stone are less 

Stone knives are used to-day by many Eskimo and Indian tribes. 

They may be hafted, with the 
blade inserted in a wooden handle 
and tied or glued in place, or 
simply made with a smoothed 
end of the stone itself. The 
California Indians use unhafted 
flaked knives of quartz or obsi- 
dian for skinning large game and 
smaller blades of the same stones 
set in wooden handles for their 
general kitchen use. The ancient 
Aztecs used obsidian knives for 
their religious sacrifice of human 
beings. The stone knives, still 
COCONUT used by many present-day races 
OPENER f r their ritual circumcisions, are 
Wooden handle * surviving reminder of the age 
with Tridacna- of this custom. Stone axes have 
shell blade been found in archaeological ex- 
Bismarck cavations in South America. 
Archipelago Stone saws of the type used by 
After Frobenius the prehistoric Lake Dwellers of 
Switzerland are still in use among 
These consist of a wooden base with inserted 
stone splinters for teeth. Borers of stone are still customary even 
in the Indian high culture. Stone hatchets are joined to straight 
or curved wooden handles by cement, putty, or resin, or tied to the 
shaft with strings. 

Another important utilization of stone for household implements 
are the slabs and grinders on which primitive housewives all over 
the earth chop and mince their grains and vegetables. One large 
stone serves as a base, with a smaller, round stone as a pestle. 
From the harvesting tribes of North America to the agriculturists 
of Africa and the Pacific Islands, such slabs and mortars are in 
general use. 

Some tribes even manufacture decorative trinkets of allure from 




Sirione Indians, 
Eastern Bolivia 

R. N. Wegner 

primitive tribes. 



stone. The Tuareg and the tribes of the western Sudan have black 
marble bracelets of great regularity and beauty. 


Early Palaeolithic Stage 

After O. Menghin 


Younger Palaeolithic 

After O. Menghin 


Early Younger 

Palaeolithic Palaeolithic 
Stage Stage 


Cylindri- Axe-head 
cal Hoe of Flint- 

After O. Menghin 

The people of Oceania are famed for their precious and artistic 
clubs of basalt, nephrite and other valuable stones. These imple- 
ments are often decorated with carved images and serve as symbols 


of chieftainship or sovereignty. The dark-green nephrite sceptres 
of the Maori are among the most artistic show-pieces of our modern 

Among the handsomest pieces of native craftsmanship which we 
can admire during our strolls through ethnological collections are 
the multi-formed woven bags, baskets, and household articles 
which even the most primitive tribes turn out with great neatness 
and accuracy. Although the art of intertwining, interlacing and 
braiding plant fibres is known all over the world, its centres of 
perfection are in Africa and the South Seas. The art appears 

sporadically in the arctic regions, 
where the lack of suitable materials 
has led native manufacturing skill 
into other channels. 

Braiding and interlacing are two 

STONE KNIFE FOR HUMAN Q{ ^ ^ handicrafts \ nown to 

different stages of 

Mexico development can be followed easily. 

British Museum, London They lead from the simple joining 

of palm leaves, bast strings, and 

grass blades to the final development of the loom and the multi- 
textured materials the loom produces. Although we speak of 
basket * weaving/ this term must not be confused with the art of 
the loom, which appears only in advanced cultures, while braiding 
and interweaving are known everywhere. 

The simple art of joining plant fibres into regular patterns to 
produce the many containers, mats, sieves, and other gadgets 
characteristic of basketry does not require the use of tools other 
than an occasional awl or needle of wood or bone. About the 
simplest method of making a fan, for instance, is the mere inter- 
lacing of the pinnated parts of one single palm leaf, which makes 
a pretty and sturdy article. It is used by many tribes of the Pacific 
Islands and South America. 

But by far the most important braided or interwoven objects are 
the many and varied containers which primitive man uses to collect 
and store his food and belongings. The very term * food gatherers* 
implies that even the earliest tribes needed containers in which to 
gather and to carry home whatever nature gave them. It is, there- 
fore, not surprising that these peoples put great emphasis on light 
weight, sturdiness, and efficient shape for their woven containers. 

Australian baskets are either simply interlaced or show a quite 
intricate application of the so-called spiral coil, developed from the 
sling technique. Reed or grass forms the coil, round which the 


bast fibres are wound, and the individual coils are then laced 
together. Most bags are equipped with strings slung round the 



Relief in Thebes, 650 B.C. 

After Steindorff 



After Bernatzik 

shoulder to keep the hands free for the digging stick. Some tribes, 
like the natives of Arnhemland, make twined baskets decorated with 



Santa Cruz Islands 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 


Alligator river, Arnhem- 
land, Australia 

After F, D. McCarthy 

interwoven * X-ray ' patterns in which human figures, lizards, 
crocodiles, and goannas predominate. 

The African Wambutti Pygmies have a practical method of 


weaving a basket on the spot where they have killed and cut up a 
piece of game. In order to carry it home conveniently they imme- 
diately set to work to make a handsome basket, more than one yard 
high, which is fashioned exactly after the pattern of their beehive 

COIL TECHNIQUE Tierra del Fuego 

WITH AWL After G Montandon 

After Schmidl 

hut. When the basket has reached the desired dimensions they 
pull the ' hut ' out of the soil, turn it over, fill it with the meat, and 
carry it home. 

The Yahgan of Tierra del Fuego know four different kinds of 


Africa California 

Lindenmuseum t Stuttgart After A. L. Kroeber 

basketry. Their different containers are known by the names of 
the applied techniques. 

Among the American Indians the art of basketry reached early 
heights of perfection so much so that their woven objects often 
replaced things which other peoples fashioned of wood or clay, like 
plates, trays, bowls, cooking pots, and baby cradles. The California 
Indians especially among whom basketry is " unquestionably the 
most developed art " produce tools and containers of exquisite 


shape, smoothness, and stability, most of them decorated with 
geometrical ornaments achieved by the addition of multi-coloured 
materials. While among these tribes the ancient coiling technique 
is often entirely dispensed with, especially among the northernmost 
ones and the Yurok and their neighbours, the most characteristic 
examples of Maidu basketry remain coiled. The foundation of the 
coils is always three-rod, with peeled willow or unpeeled redbud as 
the chief materials. In the working process bone awls or sewing 
splints are used to facilitate the anchoring of the work-fibre between 
the coils. 

The Maidu baskets are mostly two-coloured, brownish-red and 
white, and measure up to the standards set by the other California 
tribes, although they are not quite as perfect as the Porno and 
Yakut containers. One of their most interesting objects the seed 
beater, which is used in the processing of their wild harvests is 
constructed of wicker. Tule mats, universal in California, are their 
favourite pieces of ' furniture/ serving as " seats, bed, camp roofing 
and doors." 

The following variety of Yurok objects listed by Kroeber gives 
at least an idea of the almost boundless use of basketry products 
among these tribes : cooking baskets for acorn mush, high round 
vessels used as general receptacles round the house, storage-baskets 
of three feet or more in diameter, conical baskets for carrying loads, 
patterned smaller baskets for gathering wild seeds, seed beaters of 
coarse openwork, plates and trays of all sizes, decorated small 
bowls, tobacco baskets often covered with deer-skin, hoppers for 
the slabs on which acorns are pounded, dance baskets, women's 
caps, baby carriers. This list is by no means complete and could 
be supplemented by the countless basketry objects manufactured by 
other tribes, especially the Porno, the Yuki, and the Lassik. Very 
frequently used is the method of overlay twining. Over a founda- 
tion of hazel shoots or conifer roots each weft strand is faced by a 
coloured one, to produce designs. 

Other American Indians, like the Apache, weave baskets of such 
firmness and fineness that they are practically watertight. For 
their manufacture, the Apache woman collects willow withes and 
keeps them in a moist spot to preserve their flexibility. When used 
they are split and scraped and woven into a circle, with stiff split 
sticks for a bottom. To make the last openings disappear, the basket 
is frequently interwoven with buck-skin strips. The resulting 
vessel is a wide-mouthed storage-jug. The tus, or water-jug, gets an 
additional inner and outer coating with warm pinon pitch. The 
average size holds about five gallons of water. 



Among the most important objects invented by the Indians of 
South America is the so-called tipiti tube press, used for pressing 
the juice out of the mandioca pulp. Intricately woven of diagonal 


Dutch East India 

After Lamster 

fibres, it contracts when pulled at both ends, thus extracting the 
juice completely from the pulp. The Xingii river region is rich in 
many other products of basketry, besides the tipiti. These pro- 


Dutch East India 

After Lamster 

ducts range from the large baskets of interwoven palm leaves to 
tiny quivers for blowing darts, fire fans, covered boxes, and large- 
burden baskets. 

Other centres of basketry are in Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. 
Many techniques are known in this region, from the ancient coiling 
of liana and rotang fibres to woven sandals and fans and fine carrying 


baskets. In the Santa Cruz Islands, the latter, for instance, are 
overlaid with ornaments and tassel trimmings, and their appearance- 
is indistinguishable from products of the loom, although they are 
hand-plaited without any other technical aids than delicate fingers 
and extreme dexterity. The * netting-without-a-knot ' technique 
is used with equal skill for basketry and produces bags of great 
strength and flexibility. Pacific cooks make use of hand- woven 
tent-like structures which they drag over the open fire in the event 
of a cloudburst. The braided mats of the South Seas are too well 
known to be mentioned here at any length. 

The basketware of Africa is world-famed and of such great 
variety that many volumes have been filled with descriptions of 
their shapes and ornamentations. From the huge fences of inter- 
woven grass to the burden baskets of smooth liana braid ; from the 
thousands of household containers, bowls, sieves, and trays of raffia 
to the tiny square sun roof which protects the sleeping baby, human 
craftsmanship and imagination have produced thousands of forms 
so efficient and so beautiful that only a trip to a museum can provide 
even an idea of their unsurpassable artistry. In the Cameroons and 
elsewhere whole houses may be roofed with finely woven mats, and 
entire village streets are screened off with sturdy woven walls. 

Another use of the plant fibre is in the form of cords or twine, 
binding materials which play a paramount role in many primitive 
cultures. Snares and nets consist of strings ; wooden poles are 
tied together to build a house. Whether the plant fibres are 
obtained after complicated rotting processes or twined and twisted 
together in their original state, they are among the most important 
materials of most primitive cultures. The shark snares of the 
Santa Cruz Islanders are strong enough to hold the huge prey. 

A charming tale of the Pangwe explains the fact " that the animals 
enable man to kill them " by their failure to destroy man's planta- 
tions, which supply the fibres used in manufacturing fishing cords, 
snares, and nets. The Tikar of the Cameroons cultivate a hemp 
species that furnishes the thread for their sturdy tows and nets, and 
their own cotton furnishes the raw material for the finely braided 
bands on the aprons and baskets used by their women. 

Even human hair may serve as a material for strings and braids. 
The Australians manufacture hair bands of human and opossum 
hair and braid belts and necklaces of the same material. No 
Australian mother-in-law has the right to refuse to her daughter's 
husband the privilege of claiming her * crowning glory ' when he 
wishes to manufacture from it some strings or braids. The New 
Caledonians decorate their chieftains' caps with long strands of 



braided human hair, and the natives of Assam trim their spears with 
similar cords. On the Melville Islands belts, bracelets, and head- 
bands, often interwoven with feathers and plant fibres, are valued 
pieces of * jewellery.' The native warriors hang balls of yellow 
feathers on strings of human hair around their necks to bite into 
during battle, like modern boxers who brace their teeth tightly on 
mouthpieces during a fight. 

Although all of this plaiting, braiding, interweaving, and basket- 
work is characterized by the fact that the human hand alone does 
the entire work, without any other help than an occasional awl, 
other manufactured goods call for the use of additional tools like the 
netting needle of wood or bone and a small board over which 
meshes are slung. A large work frame is the technical stand-by of 
many native braiders. The Naskapi, for instance, manufacture on 
it their exquisite * rabbit-skin blankets ' from cords of moistened 
fur coils, diametrically cut into strips. The blankets have the 
appearance of a large fur robe of one piece, but in reality are nothing 
but a network of interwoven single strips. 

The fur blanket of the Maidu of California, for instance, is of 
simpler workmanship than the type I observed in Labrador. The 
Maidu knot their fur strips into one long strip which they " wind 
back and forth between stakes to form a vertical plane of horizontal 
warps. Into this the continuous double weft, two lines of the same 
material, are twined alternately up and down and knitted to the 
outermost warp on each turn." The Labrador Indians use the 
much finer technique of crocheting with a wooden needle over a 
frame. This produces a completely regular blanket, with tiny 
invisible air holes between the coils of fur that give it great insulating 
value. Other California tribes weave cord blankets with feathers 
knotted into them. 

Whoever sees the finished products of these techniques is im- 
pressed with the regularity, smoothness, and neatness of its texture 
which has all the fine qualities of delicate handiwork. However, 
no regular weaving was possible without the existence of a thread 
better perfected than the short, twisted coils or cords of old. 

The desire to obtain a long, fine thread of equal thickness 
required the invention of a new tool the spindle. The simple 
stripping and cleaning of the fibres or, more technically, their 
scutching, and their loosening and straightening out, or carding, 
are known to many cultures. But regular spinning requires also, 
in the words of Hooper, " the drawing of the carded filaments out 
in an even rove and twisting them together into fine or coarse 
continuous thread." The same author gives a good definition of 


Found at 



After O. Menghin 


the spindle when he says : " If a small stick, having a hook at one 

end and a weight at the other, be suspended to the spinning thread, 

the further even twisting of the yarn will become much easier, 

because regulated by the continuous 

revolution of the weighted stick or 

spindle, as such an appliance is 


As soon as man began to settle 
down the spindle appeared among 
his most important tools, and we 
can actually say that the invention 
of agriculture and the appearance 
of the spindle as a cultural element 
are closely interrelated. The oldest 
findings from the times of prehis- 
toric man show that weaving equip- 
ment existed in every household of 
the earliest settled tribes. The clay 
whorls found in the lowest layers of 
the Anau culture at Merw in Trans- 
caspia go back to about 3500 B.C. Similar specimens were dis- 
covered in the ruins of Eridu (the Abu Sharein of to-day) and in 
the so-called Sesklo culture of prehistoric Greece, as well as in 
the remnants of the Cretan Neolithicum. 
Especially numerous are the loom weights 
and spindle whorls found in the homes of 
the ancient European Lake Dwellers, where 
even parts of looms, frames, and thread- 
twisting machines have been preserved 
through the millenniums, together with 
fragments of mats and woven linen cloths. 
The primitive spindles of our time are still 
exactly like those earlier specimens which 
were also used in the ancient high cultures 
of Egypt, India, and Peru. No Peruvian 
noblewoman left her home to go visiting 
without a maid behind to carry a basket 
containing her spindle and other gadgets necessary for needlework. 
The facts show that the loom, which was developed from the 
braiding techniques, is an invention of women. Men became 
weavers only in the younger cultural stages, when trades and skills 
began to be specialized. The form of the loom is derived from the 
braiding frame with its simple series of parallel strings or warp, 


After Nordenskiold 


through which the work thread or weft is alternately laced. The 
natives of Melanesia and of tropical South America, also many 
North American Indian tribes, braid head-bands, sashes, garters, 
and belts on this type of simple frame. The lacing needle of bone 
or wood is the forerunner of the weaver's shuttle and reed. 

As to the forms of primitive looms, they are of such great variety 
that their analysis would be a study in itself. The anthropologists 
Chappie and Coon have divided them, according to their mechanical 
principles, into three main groups : the one-bar loom, a % wooden 
cross-bar suspended between two poles ; the two-bar loom, in 
which the warp threads are stretched between two fixed bars, 
mostly used in horizontal position, with needles operated by foot 
treadles ; and, finally, the high-culture two-beam loom, which 
introduces revolving cylinders and allows the manufacture of cloth 
of unlimited length. The last adds so many improvements that it 
can indeed be regarded as the model after which the modern 
industrial loom has been fashioned. 

These hand looms, then, are the machines used to weave the 
delicately textured fabrics which so often are of better quality 
and workmanship than the products of our own factories. The 
unhurried manner of their manufacture, the inwoven patterns of 
mysterious age and significance, and the mellow, subdued natural 
colours produce effects of lasting quality and beauty. 

Weaving looms are limited to certain relatively narrow regions of 
the globe. The loom appears comparatively late in the array of 
man's material possessions. It does not occur in the otherwise 
highly developed Polynesian cultural circle. With the exception 
of south-western United States where the Pueblo and Navaho are 
famous for their multi-coloured woollen blankets and materials for 
wearing apparel, the loom did not penetrate the North American 
Indian cultures. It is also absent from South Africa, the steppes 
of Asia, and from the arctic regions, where felt and animal skins 
are substitutes for woven fabrics. 

The logical development of the loom from the art of basketry is 
indicated by the earliest materials used for threads. They are all 
plant fibres : banana bast, nettles, hemp, and cotton in the hot 
regions. Woollen cloth is of much later origin. 

Among the best African weavers are the Tikar of the Cameroons, 
whose cotton loin-cloths, dyed with redwood, are of striking appear- 
ance. The large robes of the Hausa chieftains and others feature 
colourfully striped ornaments ; and the cotton-padded * Phrygian ' 
caps of West Africa are examples of finest workmanship. 

In addition to their delicately braided sleeping and ' money ' 


mats, the natives of Melanesia weave loin-cloths of banana fibres, 
mostly decorated with fringes and with hemstitched borders of 
exquisite symmetry. 

The multi-textured materials woven on the looms of the ancient 
high cultures are masterpieces of art and precision. The Peruvians 
of pre-Columbian times, whose religious ritual required the offering 
to their gods of woven masterpieces manufactured by the Sun 
Virgins, produced pictorial pieces like tunics and shoulder-throws 
whose patterns told whole stories or celebrated sacred figures like 
the jaguar demon or the zigzag snake. Spear throwers and flying 
birds decorate their ancient garments. Shirts, belts, and fringed 
sashes found in their prehistoric graves show a perfection of weaving 
which surpasses the much younger products of the great Parisian 
Gobelin. The magnificence of the Egyptian fruits of the loom is 
known from the findings in the Valley of the Kings ; the Chinese 
gold damasks, the Persian velvets, the Coptic * Turkish towels/ all 
made on hand looms, cannot be equalled by modern imitations. 

In spite of the magic of modern textiles and recent triumphs 
of the laboratory, one ancient fabric has remained the legendary 
masterpiece of the ages. Lives have been risked, spent, and 
sacrificed to obtain the secret of silk, so jealously guarded by its 
Chinese inventors through millenniums. The princes of old and 
the potentates of the Churches craved it for its regal splendour, 
and even to-day the words * genuine silk ' overshadow by far the 
chemical glamour of nylon and its derivatives. About 200 B.C. the 
Koreans succeeded in discovering the details of silkworm raising, 
and the knowledge of the technicalities behind the Divine Fabric 
penetrated slowly to Japan and to Inner Asia, finally reaching Persia 
and Tibet. It was not until the sixth century A.D. that Justinian 
introduced it in Byzantium, and it was only after this that the Greeks 
succeeded in adding the knowledge of ' silk raising ' to their arts. 
No primitive tribe can claim the invention of silk or has been able 
to manufacture it. The road of silk is the road of civilization. 

While the art of weaving goes back to the ancient knowledge of 
braiding and of basketry it is not the only skill developed from these 
old techniques. A younger sister of the art of basketry, also 
invented by women, is the manufacture of pots and vessels out of 
clay ceramics. Although the materials of basketry and of pottery 
are completely different, the manner of shaping containers from 
both is kindred indeed. 

One of the most ancient methods of making earthenware, the 
fashioning of receptacles from clay coils, goes directly back to the 
spiral-coil technique of basketry. This, however, does not imply 


that the tribes familiar with the oldest braiding techniques are 
necessarily also potters. Like the weaving loom, the art of pottery 
does not appear in the material culture of man before the stage, of 
agriculture has been reached. The roaming tribes of earlier com- 
plexes had neither the time nor the opportunity to develop handi- 
craft patience and working conditions of sufficient stability, nor 
could they easily transport the fragile ware whose use is beneficial 
only to permanent households. 

As to the invention of pottery, the general assumption is that 
it developed from the habit of plastering woven 
containers with cement or clay to render them 
waterproof, and that the usage of such vessels 
on or near the fire suggested the idea of shaping 
them from clay without further dependence 
upon the original basket. This assumption 
may be correct. We have no means of know- 
ing to-day. But although this story of develop- 
ment may hold true as far as sun-dried clay 
CRUDE EARTHEN- containers are concerned, it is more than doubt- 
WARE CUP ful whether baked earthenware can be regarded 
Found in a Mound a s of similar origin. A scientist of the distinction 
near Lodi, Calif, of Nordenskiold calls the idea * preposterous.' 
After Nordenskiold He believes that such accidentally baked pieces 
of plastered basketry would by no means turn 
into baked earthenware, but rather into ' a rubble of burnt clay/ 
and suggests that a knowledge of the washing and the preparation 
of the clay and the shaping of initial tiny bowls must have pre- 
ceded the * building-up methods ' applied in the manufacture 
of larger vessels. This example of divided scientific opinion on 
the origins of pottery serves perhaps best as an illustration of the 
challenging nature of such problems. 

Ceramic-making tribes have different methods of processing clay, 
according to the consistency and composition of the soil they have 
at their disposal. The clay is cleaned and dried. Dirt particles 
are removed by sifting. If the clay is too ' fat/ it is mixed with 
binding materials like sand, grit, ashes, or even tiny particles of 
wood or grass. In South America the application of sponge 
spicules in the clay was an independent Indian invention. If the 
* dough ' has gained a smooth mouldable consistency it is ready for 
the working process. 

The shaping of containers in the different regions of the world 
follows five principal methods four of them primitive, one 
characteristic of the high cultures exclusively. 


The simplest and crudest way is to take a lump of clay and 
gradually press down its central part, which raises the outer sides. 
In this rough shape the outer sides are beaten with a piece of wood 
while a stone is held against the inner part to counteract the pressure 
of the beating. The Papua of New Guinea, who also have other 
methods, make most of their pottery in this manner. 

The spiral-coil technique uses one long coil of clay which is 
built up from the bottom in circular fashion until the desired height 
has been attained. The inner and outer sides of the pot or bowl 
are then smoothed out with the aid of a stone or a piece of wood. 


South-east Coast of New Baila, North Rhodesia 


After Hurley 

Very similar is the method of building up a container from a 
series of rings. Each ring is larger than the one previously used, 
with the smallest forming the bottom and the largest the upper rim. 
As in the coiling technique, the contours of the rings are then 
smoothed together. 

The fourth method requires the initial shaping of a round clay 
bottom, to which a number of side flaps are attached. These are 
built up and worked into each other by a slow turning of the vessel. 

The fifth method, which alone is the exclusive invention of the 
high cultures, makes use of a mechanical device, the potter's wheel, 
whose invention, as the invention of all wheels, was revolutionary 
in so far as its mechanical principle has no equivalent in nature. 
To think it out was a triumph of human imagination independent 
of the imitation of phenomena observed in nature. The revolving 
potter's wheel was known in Egypt before the beginning of the 
third pre-Christian millennium ; the craftsmen of Crete used it 


during the oldest stages of the Bronze period, and it was known in 
many parts of India. Its first European appearance was about 
500 B.C. in France and southern Germany. It was unknown on 
the entire American continent. 

Primitive earthenware is baked in an open fire, and many vessels 
and containers are beautified with engraved or painted ornaments. 
The knowledge of the glazing process is reserved to the high 

The natives of West Africa have an interesting method of en- 
graving patterns into the smooth clay of a vessel. A wooden stick 
is carved in very sharply contoured patterns and rolled round the 
container in such a way that the ornaments are pressed into its 
surface in a regular and symmetrical fashion. More complicated 
patterns can be obtained by a crosswise application of the wooden 
stencil. In the Cameroons the pots decorated in this manner are 
dried for a few hours and then burnt during the night. The 
result is earthenware of great sturdiness and attractiveness. 
The West African vessels vary in size from small bowls to round 
cooking pots of great dimensions. 

Among the North American Indians only a few tribes like the 
Pueblo and the Hopi are expert potters. But their great art has 
declined during the last several centuries. The spiral-coil pots of 
the cliff dwellers featured striking black ornaments, and the multi- 
coloured earthenware of the abandoned Hopi cities were master- 
pieces. To the California tribes the art of pottery is almost a 
forgotten skill ; modern Indians must consult their grandparents 
to learn how the vessels which are still in use were originally 

The South American Indians are the inventors of pots with 
hollow rims. In stoneless regions they had an ingenious method 
of replacing the stones originally used for stone cooking (by heating 
a stone in the fire and putting it into the food-filled container) by 
clay balls. These Indians also fashion clay pipes of peculiar shapes. 
A study of the earthenware pipes of man would lead one all over 
the globe, from the jungle to the parlours of old Holland. 

The ancient high cultures, especially of Persia, India, Egypt, 
Mexico, and Peru, have contributed the most perfected examples of 
ceramics. Magnificent water-jugs, often in the shape of human 
heads or figures and comparable to the English Toby jugs, have 
been found, especially in the graves of Peru. The museums of the 
world are filled with countless examples of earliest ceramic art. 

In the science of prehistory the manifold shapes of ancient 
pottery have even served to name cultural periods according to the 



forms and ornamentations of the earthenware manufactured by the 
artisans of the particular times. 

While the Stone Age craftsmen of the Palaeolithicurn -hunters 
and food gatherers could not advance to the art of pottery, the 
Neolithicum, the age of the earliest agriculturists, 
abounded with ceramic products of exquisite 
shapes and decorations, and its three principal 
periods obtained their names from their pottery. 
We speak of the Neolithic periods of ' corded 
ceramics ' (Schnurkeramik) ; of * bell - shaped 
cups ' or ' zonical cups ' (Glockenbecher, Zonen- 
becher, vase a campana) ; and of ' band ceramics ' 
(BandkeramiK). Remnants of these have been 
found in northern and central Europe, on the 
Iberian Peninsula, in Italy, France, Great Britain, 
and the ancient Danubian cultural centres. 

But the modelling of clay, even in the earliest WATER-JUG 
times, did not serve only practical purposes. Clay 

The shaping of human figures from moulded Peru 

clay, whether for the sake of magic or mere Museum of 
aesthetic joy, was practised by primitive man in Ethnology, Cologne 
central Europe as early as during the Aurignacian, 
and animal idols and statuettes, especially of women, abounded in 
the Neolithic Age as a parallel feature to the beautifully ornamented 
vases, spinning whorls, clay stencils, and the like. 

In the ancient Egyptian tombs multitudes of clay figures and clay 


* Corded ' Ceramics 

* Zonical' Cups 
After Ddchelette 

'Band' Ceramics 

tools and gadgets have been found. These were meant to serve 
the departed in the other world. Hundreds of them are among 
the treasures of the British Museum from the tiny plates of clay 
filled with symbolic fruits and vegetables to the multitude of 
symbolic figures and amulets. 

The climax of ceramic art was reached with the invention of 
porcelain, another gift of high culture which China has added to 



the material possessions of man. Its first appearance can be dated 
back to about A.D. 700. Porcelain originated from the desire to 
create a substitute for the precious nephrite plates and dishes of the 
oldest times, which the earliest specimens of Chinese porcelain 
imitate as closely as possible in shape and colour. Hence the 
oldest chinaware is not white, but green, grey, or bluish, in the 
shades of the cherished and valuable stone. The desire for thin- 
ness and fragility was developed much later, when the porcelain 
was no longer regarded as an imitation of the nephrite but became 
cherished on its own merits as a material capable of producing shapes 
of utmost delicacy and fineness. 

Even to-day the Chinese porcelains manufactured especially in 
the ateliers of Chingtehchen (Kiangsi Province) are about the most 
valued in the world. At all times porcelain has graced the tables 
of the mighty. It was one of the first concerns of the Japanese 
invaders of the Second World War to carry off as many of the 
treasured Chingtehchen pieces as possible. When victory finally 
came the Chinese government commemorated the event by ordering 
a special series of bowls and vases from the artisans of Chingtehchen, 
as a national gesture to mark the resurrection of the glory of China. 

But the raw materials of the mineral and the plant worlds have 
not alone been utilized by man to fashion things he needed or wanted. 
The animal world has its equal share in primitive industry. Besides 
the horns and bones which were shaped into tools, the skins of 
hunted animals have provided very important additions to the 
material possessions of humanity. We saw that among the oldest 
tools uncovered in the prehistoric findings were fur scrapers, 
skinning implements, and the like. It is certain that the ability to 
skin animals is among man's earliest skills. 

Although the knowledge of skin tanning, dressing, and currying 
is by no means known to the most primitive tribes, the Australians 
sew animal skins together with kangaroo sinews to fashion them 
into garments where the climate is rough. The South African 
natives wear crude versions of fur coats, and the indispensable 
stand-bys of the Fuegians are their wraps of guanaco fur and their 
large sleeping blankets of the same material. The entire African 
East Coast, from the southern tip of the continent up to the 
equatorial forests, uses animal skins for various purposes ; and 
certain regions of the Sudan can be regarded as regular ' leather 

While animal skins are utilized on all continents, the treatment of 
the raw hide to turn it into leather of greater or lesser smoothness 
and pliability varies considerably. In this field the herdsmen are 


the best artisans, but the arctic and subarctic hunters and the 
tribes of Inner Asia also know how to get the best use of their 
animal skins. For simple water containers, tent covers, carrying 
bags, etc., they merely scrape off the meat and sinews from the 
flesh side of the pelt, but whenever smooth leather is needed for 
the manufacture of garments, moccasins, caps, and the like, the 
hair must be removed. The cleaning is done with fleshers of stone, 
bone, slate, or shells, often with the help of a scraping beam, where- 
upon the removal of the hair can begin. Although some tribes 
simply pull out the furry parts, others soak pelts in water to detach 
the fur. 

Among the various methods of removing hair is that of burying 
the skins in the ground, often with the addition of ashes or leaves, 
as in Africa, or of soaking them in a yucca concoction, as in Cali- 
fornia. Soaking in urine is an arctic method which also was known 
to the ancient .Greeks and Romans. After any of these treatments 
it is easy to pull out the loosened hair either by hand or by rubbing 
the skins over a tight rope, as is done in many places in Africa. 
The Naskapi lace skins into a vertical frame and work on them with 
the thigh-bone of a bear or a beaver tooth. 

Although the art of currying animal skins with salt, alum, and 
other minerals is a high-culture invention, the primitive manu- 
facturers of leather know many methods of making it pliable and 
smooth. Fish oil, moss, and animal brains or livers are worked 
into the skins, followed by rolling, pounding, wringing, and other 
manipulations. The old explorer Mason is only too accurate : 
" Human muscle is the chief ingredient in aboriginal tanning." 

Primitive methods of dyeing prepared skins are very numerous. 
The caribou skins which the Montagnais-Naskapi use for their 
moccasins have, after processing, a snowy-white appearance and are 
exceedingly smooth and flexible. To make them more practical for 
wearing, these soft skins are dyed to a mellow brown over pails 
filled with smouldering wood particles. The leggings and moc- 
casins of the Blackfoot Indians were smoked similarly over oak rind, 
which caused their black colouring and gave the wearers their 
name. A leather-dyeing method of the Eskimos is to ' chew ' the 
juice of the purple snail into the prepared skins, which produces a 
beautiful red colour. The bark of the white maple mixed with 
yellow ochre makes the blue dye of the Omaha ; cactus juices were 
used by the leather dyers of the prairies, and the deep-red colour 
of the African Hausa and Mandingo is obtained by treatments with 
the bark of the mangrove-tree. 

While these practices aim at the utilization of cleaned animal 


skins, another important industry concerns itself with the hair 
removed from pelts exclusively. This is the art of felting. It is 
most important to the peoples of Central Asia and to the tribes of 
the Sudan. In Tibet it has reached especially high perfection. 
The pelts used are the skins of the yak, whose leather, always 
uncured, provides the material for boots, saddles, and harnesses. 
For felt-making the yaks are shorn. Since animal hairs have tiny 
hooks they have a tendency to stick together when properly treated. 
The carded fibres are spread out, moistened, and compressed, and 
joined so firmly that a fabric-like material, sturdy and waterproof, 
results. The finest felts of Tibet are as thin as veils. If thicker 
felt is desired for coverings of the winter tents or for saddle paddings, 
boot linings, flooring, and other equipment, additional layers are 
pressed and rolled upon the previous ones. 

It is interesting to note that most wool-producing peoples do not 
spin the fibre into cloth and that the manufacture of felt is older 
than the weaving of animal hairs into fabrics. 

Plants, minerals, animals contributed to man's early industries ; 
but his skill enabled him to penetrate into the surface of the earth 
to discover copper and iron ores ; to learn the secret of the gold- 
bearing rivers ; to melt different metals for producing alloys ; to 
erect furnaces in the wilderness. The capacity for making metal 
tools brought a fundamental change to the trades inherited from 
earlier ages. New possibilities of construction and of conquest arose. 
New independence, new inventions, new industries, strengthened 
the power of man. 

The Iron Age, of which our present age of steel is merely a late 
phase, began in Europe three thousand years ago, when the know- 
ledge of iron manufacture penetrated the Mediterranean regions. 
In China, however, the metal was already mentioned in the records 
of the administration of the Emperor Yao during the year 2357 B.C. 
In Egypt it was known in 2800 B.C., although there it ranked as a 
curiosity until 1600 B.C. 

Despite this respectable age, the discovery of iron is the youngest 
branch of metallurgy. It was preceded by the Bronze Age, which 
developed from the knowledge of copper manufacture. 

When we think of the ancient metals our imagination likes to 
dwell on the treasures of silver and of gold that came from Egypt 
and Ur, Bolivia and Colombia ; the legendary riches of vanished 
kings and empires which have been brought to light in the Valley 
of the Kings at Thebes, in Persia, in Greece, and in Mexico. 
Although the ancient high cultures abounded in manifestations of 



Ancient Egypt 
After Rosellini 

wealth and luxuriant art unknown in our time, their golden cans 

and vases, necklaces, nose and ear ornaments, idols and luxuries, 

were not an expression of a very high 

living standard for all, but rather of the 

privilege of the very few, whose riches 

were created amidst the frightful poverty 

of the many. We can be sure that the 

goldsmiths of the Chibchas who shaped 

silver and gold vessels for household use 

and who soldered gold wire on the golden 

masks and ornaments were as poor as 

the slaves who mined gold for the 

Egyptians. All the artistic treasures of 

the ancient empires could not have been created, however, if 

the right tools had not existed. 

Copper and bronze were the oldest 
metals shaped into tools. They go back 
to the end of the Neolithicum and mark 
the beginnings of the Bronze Age, when 
the art of mixing copper with tin into a 
new alloy bronze was invented. This 
technique was known in Crete as early as 
during the end of the fourth pre-Christian 
millennium, but it was spread over so 
many other regions of the globe that 
the location of its first appearance cannot 
be determined to-day. 

Five thousand furnaces stood on the 
plateaux around Potosi in the bronze- 
manufacturing regions of ancient Bolivia. 
And in China the bronzes of the Shang 
Dynasty (1766-1122 B.C.) followed in 
their execution the firmly established 
rules of artistic tradition. After millen- 
niums of burial in the tombs of China, 
these bronzes have assumed the classic 
patinas of " pure blue as the plumage 
of the kingfisher " or " pure green as 
the rind of a melon/' which only very 

genuine and very pure bronzes show when continuously exposed 

to water or to air. 

When we think of primitive metallurgy, however, we look 

in the direction of Africa, because it was from there that astounding 


Handle of a Silver Vase : 
fourth century B.C. 

Louvre, Paris 


evidences of perfected metalwork have come since the discovery 
of the Dark Continent. When to-day we find bracelets, tools, 
and ornaments cast in bronze by the tribesmen of Adamaua, 
Nigeria, and Togo this is merely a last reflection of the glamorous 
African period of the so-called cire perdue process, which reached 
its climax in the bronze-relief plates and the magnificent human 

Tanganyika, East Africa 
After Schmidt-Koppers 

and animal statues adorning the palace of Benin. Judging from 
the appearance of the costumes of Europeans often depicted in 
these works of art, this industry of West Africa was at its height 
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

The technique of the cire perdue begins with the shaping of 
a wax model of the figure to be cast (shaped around a clay kernel 
for larger objects), which is then coated with a layer of brick meal 
or sulphate of lime. When this has been dried air holes and cast 
openings are drilled. The mould is then exposed to the fire which 
melts the wax. It can now be filled with the liquid metal. The 
resulting statue or relief is completely free of any casting marks and 
can be completed with the help of files, hammers, and puncheons. 


The Benin pieces all show delicately engraved backgrounds with 
floral and geometrical ornaments which might have aroused the 
envy of Benvenuto Cellini, that great Renaissance master of the 
cera perduta technique. 

The most exciting story of African metallurgy, however, is 
the saga of iron. . Although not all African tribes know the art 
of iron smelting (the Bushmen and most Pygmies do not), it 
was most probably known to the Negroes before the whites knew 
of it. It can rightfully be called a thoroughly African achievement. 
Noted scientists like Luschan have firmly established the fact of 












Lindenmuseum, Stuttgart (after K. Weule) 

its African origin, although others claim its migration from South 
Asia or Asia Minor. Be that as it may, Africa is really the classic 
land of native iron technique. Its towering furnaces were built 
by the natives long before history was recorded. But the smelting 
furnace is not an inevitable necessity in primitive iron manufacture. 
Some tribes still melt iron in the ancient hearth pit, which resembles 
the ancient earth oven in which smouldering stones cooked the 
earliest meals. The sight of these white-hot stones in the fire may 
be responsible for the discovery of the technique of iron melting. 
The ability to work off the ore presupposes the existence of 
simple smelting gear, especially of the bellows, whose oldest 
forerunners are the fan and the blowpipe. From the latter the 
two fundamental forms of primitive bellows have developed : 
the bag bellows of animal skin with a wood-framed opening, 
and the pump or piston bellows consisting of a box or pipe from 
which a piston pumps air into the hearth pit or furnace. The 
pointed European hand bellows is a combination of both. 


The equipment of the primitive blacksmith is of utter sim- 
plicity. Pieces of metal or of stone serve as" hammer and anvil ; 
two wooden sticks or an iron pincer are his tongs. The number 
of his products varies from the tools of agriculture, of industry, 
and of war, to gigantic pieces of ' jewellery ' like iron cuffs of arm 
length, iron collars, iron beads, and the multi-shaped hewing 
knives for jungle clearing, the ' money ' in the shape of spear- 
heads, and the countless articles facilitating hunt and home life. 
Iron chains are especially well made in East Africa, and even 
twentieth-century technique could add nothing in principle to 
the African art of wire drawing. The smelting furnaces of Gurma, 
Togo, and Yoruba extend to fifteen feet and higher. The Fulbe 
and Mandingo artisans belong to the best native blacksmiths. 
Among the western Bantu iron is mined in adits longer than a 
mile. The Dark Continent is indeed the continent of iron ! 

The social position of the blacksmith is one of the most interesting 
facets of this great industry. While he enjoys a highly privileged 
position, especially in the western Sudan, where he is a priestlike 
protege of kings and chieftains, his position throughout the entire 
north of Africa is that of a feared and disdained pariah. Stuhlmann 
explains this attitude from the fact that the later-arriving light- 
skinned Hamitic and other tribes, who found the Negroes in the 
possession of a secret they had not known, developed feelings of 
suspicion and jealousy against them. 

In other parts of the world, like Tibet, blacksmiths are regarded 
as members of the lowest caste. Here, the reasons are religious. 
The slaughterers of the * holy ' Buddhist cattle and the men who 
forge the knives to dissect them are lowly creatures who can never 
rise to lamadom. This does not mean that the faithful would not 
participate in the forbidden eating of meat. A shrewd way out 
has been found in the holy city of Lhasa. There a lama reads a 
religious mass over any ox to be killed, thereby safeguarding the 
animal's reincarnation and the protection of the smith who furnished 
the knife from mishaps in the hereafter. Among another Asiatic 
people, the Buryats, the blacksmiths are the cream of society, 
freed of paying taxes and regarded as related to the gods. The 
Mongol darxat are smiths with the rank of knights. 

The importance of iron is expressed in many Biblical references, 
like the one in i Samuel xiii, 19, 20 : 

Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel : 
for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears : 
But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every 
man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. 


Even then, the possession of iron decided battles and made 
world history, as we learn from Judges i, 19, and iv, 3 : 

And the Lord was with Judah ; and he drave out the inhabitants 
of the mountain ; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the 
valley, because they had chariots of iron. 

And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord : for he had nine 
hundred chariots of iron ; and twenty years he mightily oppressed 
the children of Israel. 

The importance of metal tools in the ancient high cultures 
was tremendous, as was noted by 

Flinders Petrie. " Thousands of EARLY EGYPTIAN TOOLS 
writers/' he said, " have described 
the sculptures of the Parthenon, not 
one has described the means used 
in performing that work." In his 
interesting study of old-world metal 
tools he shows that " the forms of 
the chisel were perfected 2500 years 
ago/' and that " saws and crown- 
drills with fixed teeth of corundum 
or gem stones for cutting quartz 
rocks were used in Egypt 6000 years 
ago." In fact, many ancient tools 
have not only remained unsurpassed 
by modern man, but the original Bronze 
good design has in some cases actu- Chisels 
ally deteriorated or been forgotten 
during the ages. This holds true 

especially of the Egyptian detachable shears and an Egyptian 
sickle of extremely efficient shape. 

As to the invention of the manufacture of metals outside Africa, 
Asia, and Europe, iron was not known to the aborigines of other 
continents. The only Indian tribe which learned to smelt iron 
ore, the Campas of Peru, adopted their technique from the whites. 
The entire Pacific area did not know the use of metals. The North 
American Indians of pre-Columbian times manufactured tools 
from copper found in their regions, just like their northern neigh- 
bours, the " Yellow-knife " Eskimos. However, these tools were 
hammered into shape, since the natives had no knowledge of the 
smelting process. For South America, Nordenskiold claims an 
independent invention of bronze. 

In Africa the process of melting iron is often the centre of a 
regular religious ritual. The Ganguelas of Angola who dig the 


After Petrie 

' Roman ' 


hearth pit must remain without food or any sexual intercourse for a 
long time. Sacred roots are thrown into the pit, and are then moist- 
ened with the blood of a sacrificed chicken to the words : " We kill 
you not for the sake of your meat, but that the iron may come." 

The Pangwe do not begin the good work without the preparation 
of expensive * holy medicines.' The ability to melt iron has to be 
paid for with five sheep, five chickens, and five pieces of brass 
wire, cashed in by the medicine man, whose presence is obligatory 
during the smelting. The magic ingredients a bunch of leaves, 
c sacred ' bark, poison, and some brain substance of an ancestor 
(" to watch the smelting process ") are enclosed in a small pot 
and put into the pit, which is then filled with charcoal and the ore 
and covered with a top layer of more coal. When a burning piece 
of coal has been introduced into the pit the servants of the bellows 
begin their work, accompanied by the sound of the medicine man's 
iron bell and his songs, cries, dances, and wild notes blown on an 
antelope horn. 

Among the Asiatic Buryats a man may become a smith only 
if he has other smiths among his ancestors. No ordinary tribes- 
man can enter the sacred profession. On the other hand, the 
qualified man who refuses to accept the great distinction of 
becoming a blacksmith will die. An old myth of the Buryats tells 
of the unhappy times when men lived miserably without the 
knowledge of iron. One blessed day, however, the good ghosts, 
or tengri, decided to send the god Boshintoj and his nine sons 
down to earth to teach mortals the sacred trade. Boshintoj soon 
returned to the skies. But his sons married the daughters of men, 
and their first pupils were the ancestors of all smiths to come. All 
of the nine have individual names and are the patron saints of the 
tools of the smithy. In their honour the shaman sings, as Sand- 
shejev reports, a holy litany in a ceremony built round their worship : 

You nine white smiths of Boshintoj ! 

You, who own the flying spark, 

The noisy, sounding tools, 

The firm anvil of steel, 

The squeaking file 

You descended to the lower world, 

A silver-mould on your chests, 

Tongs in your left hand ! 

Mighty is the magic of the smithy, 

Magnificent the marvels 

Of your mighty bellows 

Ah, you nine white smiths of Boshintoj, 

On your nine white horses, 

Mighty is the spark of your flame 1 


And so on, until " the divine spirits of the forge have been 

Mighty is the power of iron but mightier still is the imagination 
of man. 

When we consider the primitive crafts as a whole we find in the 
earliest beginnings a logically and cleverly executed division of 
labour between the sexes. Among the Pygmies and the Bushmen 
of Africa, the Australians and the Fuegians, the woman is considered 
and treated as the mistress of the household, while the man is the 
expert on hunting tools and all activities related to the hunt, 
including, for instance, the Pygmy manufacture of arrow poison. 
The Vedda wife of Ceylon digs the yams and prepares the food, 
while her husband brings home animals of prey. 

An interesting survey of the tasks of the two sexes of the 
Andamanese has been furnished by Mann, who mentions among 
the daily duties of the husband the following activities : hunting, 
fishing, the catching of turtles, the gathering of wild honey, the 
building of the canoe and of the solidly constructed huts, the 
manufacture of bows, arrows, and most household implements. 
The women of the same tribe are responsible for the household, 
care of babies, obtaining vegetal foods, cooking, providing water, 
care of the fire, building light huts, and the manufacture of the 
simpler household containers and the * jewellery.' Furthermore, 
it is the women's task to shave the rest of the family and decorate 
their skins with scars and tattoos. 

While in the earliest cultures everybody manufactured for 
himself whatever he or his family needed, the development of 
specified trades does not occur until the agricultural stage has 
been reached, when it is not uncommon for the man to assume 
what had been feminine tasks previously. In the East Mbamland 
of the Cameroons, the women of the tribe are potters while the 
men take care of braiding and fibrework. In contrast to this, 
the men of Togo are the ones who shape the earthenware vessels 
of the household. On Santa Cruz Island the women are almost 
exclusively responsible for the care of the fields, cooking, and fishing 
with nets. The men dedicate themselves to the manufacture of 
most material possessions with the exception of bark-cloth making, 
which is women's work. The braiding of the all-important mats 
and the manufacture of tools and weapons are done by the men, 
who often do their work collectively in a club-house. In Melanesia 
the women are exclusively responsible for the manufacture of 
ceramic products. 
How manifold was the technical education of, for instance, 


a Maori boy in all male trades has been recorded by Best. The 
training of such a young man ready to start out in life began with 
the manufacture of greenstone and bone tools, of spears and 
spades, and later he was taught the making of the scuffle hoe 
and the smaller tools necessary for the care of the taro crops. 
His advanced courses taught him the construction of " houses, 
huts, cooking sheds, store-houses, also elevated platforms or 
stages on which certain food-supplies and other things were 
stored/' He learned the construction of windbreaks, shelter huts, 
and hamlets, " the art of dressing timber with stone adzes of two 
kinds and the use of the wooden beetle and wedges in splitting 
timber as material for dwelling-houses, store-houses, defensive 
stockades. The use of stone chisels and drills was also taught, 
also the art of wood-carving and of painting designs." " Yet 
another course of instruction/' Best says, " was that connected 
with the making of canoes and their numerous appurtenances, 
and likewise the manufacture of fish-hooks/' 

Often the restriction of different skills to one or the other sex 
leads to such specialization that a lack of versatility is the result. 
This is especially true of Africa. Individual craftsmen began 
to make one article exclusively, and all who wanted it had to trade 
with them. Tessmann reports from the Pangwe that among 
them a man manufactures, for instance, spoons, and refuses to 
carve ladles ; that a stool-maker makes only stools ; a crossbow- 
maker makes only crossbows ; a man's carrying bag is obtainable 
only from the manufacturer of men's carrying bags, and so forth. 
This often makes it necessary for the tribesmen to undertake 
long trips to procure a simple gadget like a baby-carrier, consisting 
of two leather strips, which anybody can make, but which only one 
man is entitled to manufacture. 

The growing tendency towards specialization, then, led finally 
to the formation of regular professional groups and castes in 
the high cultures. The strongest manifestation of this was the 
guilds of the European Middle Ages. Our machine age has 
gone further. On to-day's assembly lines in the great factories 
we find men who make one screw, one bolt one part exclusively 
as long as they live. This may serve the efficiency of large-scale 
mass manufacture, but whether it is an effective means of developing 
the powers of initiative in a man is another question. 

In primitive cultures, as well as in our own, over-emphasized 
specialization most certainly causes a deterioration of individual 
skill. Among the primitives it can lead to complete abandonment 
of a knowledge once possessed. This is especially true under 


the influence of the white man's importations. It is one of the 
reasons why the word * progress ' should be used only with 
greatest reservation, because for what we learn in the technical 
world we sacrifice an older skill which may not be inferior as far 
as dexterity and initiative are concerned. 

A Labrador Indian whose steel traps had been stolen managed 
to save his very life by remembering how his grandfather built 
the ancient wooden traps. All over the world we can observe 
the dying of old artisanship and true handicraft. Cheap ironware 
replaces the beautiful stone knives ; glass beads supplant ivory and 
tortoise-shell ; bright aniline paints kill the knowledge of the 
blending of the soft mineral and plant colours. In India the famed 
lac dyes, once a source of employment for thousands, vanish under 
imports ; the arts of leatherwork and tanning are rapidly being 
forgotten. The products of the Lancashire mechanical looms 
replace the output of the native cotton mills of Bengal. 

In our metropolitan centres of progress we often have trouble 
in finding a watchmaker skilled enough to repair a timepiece with 
the care and efficiency such precision work requires. Our great 
respect for antique furniture comes in part from our knowledge 
that modern manufacturing methods provide for neither the time 
nor the skill to produce objects of lasting value. Even the native 
implements frequently offered to our museums show a marked 
decline of quality. It is one of the criteria of a good curator to 
distinguish between the careful products of traditional workmanship 
and the export ware which reaches us only too often from the 
* primitive ' corners of the globe. Our artisans have realized the 
danger, and the civilized efforts to save the skills of, for instance, 
the Navaho Indians and of the sculptors of West Africa have led 
to the establishment of schools for the preservation of native 

The most modern twentieth-century prophets of applied art 
try to awaken a new appreciation of hand-made things and to 
achieve qualities comparable with those of the first primitive 
manufacturers to whom * the best for all ' was no problem. 


Having a Good Time 

WHEN WE SET out to enjoy ourselves we have to go through 
considerable preparation for our pleasure, like buying tickets, 
dressing, arriving on time, or preparing our homes for the reception 
of guests. Whether we know it or not, all these preliminaries 


Belgian Congo 
By courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History, New York 

take some of the impetus out of our joy. Furthermore, the 
* relaxations ' of civilized man are often of a strenuous nature. 

Primitive man is much luckier in this respect. He need make 
no effort to prepare for a good time. His gay nature, unshackled 
by conventions and frustrations, keeps him at a mental level of 
comparatively permanent happiness. Not that he lives in a 
paradise ; his hardships are plenty. But he is so perfectly ad- 
justed to his narrow and perilous world that he takes even un- 



avoidable disappointments in a calm, philosophical spirit. When 
times are tough the savage cheerfully hopes for a better turn of 
events. He practically always has a good time, because the notion 
of time is not a factor in his scheme of things. He is never * late.' 

In the oldest cultures tobacco and alcoholic beverages are 
unknown. No artificial stimulants are needed to make a gathering 
festive. Most celebrations are casual. Official feasts on fixed 
dates are features of the more advanced of the high cultures. 
When times are good in primitive tribal life they are enjoyed 
as they come. No egotistical attitude limits the circle of the 
celebrants to a chosen crowd. Whether it is the neighbourly chat 
in hut or community house or the great inter-tribal visits of the 
harvesters, everybody who can possibly be accommodated is 
welcome to share whatever there is to share. 

The good times of the wilderness naturally depend to a large 
extent on the availability of food. Nowhere does hunger inspire 
hospitality. But when plenty of game has been brought in, when 
the fruits especially the perishable ones are ripe, when a whale 
has been harpooned, the blessings of abundance are enjoyed by 
every one who cares to take part. 

The menu of the primitive kitchen is by no means monotonous, 
although the climatic conditions make for natural limitations. 
In Tierra del Fuego, for instance, where the cold, moist forests 
are * dead ' and covered most of the year with a * shroud of snow/ 
the reefs of the shore abound with edible sea-fowl like wild geese, 
penguins, cormorants, and gulls. Mammals like seals, sea-lions, and 
whales come in from the sea. Shells and snails, clams, crayfish, 
and sea-urchins provide variety. The prize roast is the guanaco 
of the plains. All meat is roasted or cooked in the hot ashes or 
in the open fire. The cold, humid climate produces few vegetal 
foods except barberries, but these people keep healthy with their 
saltless diet and with no beverage other than clear water. To 
the vitamin addict the word of a Naskapi Indian of the subarctic 
regions of Canada may provide food for contemplation : " The 
bear eats the berries, and we eat the bear so why bother with 
vegetables ? " 

For the nomad hunters of the eastern Bolivian forests, like 
the Siriones, nature provides a much wider choice. A variety 
of palm-trees furnishes delicious fruits which are often roasted 
in the fire ; and tapirs, alligators, wild boars, turtles, squirrels, 
armadillos, snakes, insects, and even worms are cooked in the 
hot ashes. 

It is interesting indeed to note the culinary possibilities even 


of rough regions like south-eastern Alaska, where natives treat 
each other to * ice cream ' of pounded fish roe or, on the sweet 
side, to frozen soapberry mush. The Alaskan Indians, who 
never used salt before the arrival of the white man, have vegetables 
like wild celery, wild sorrel, and the delicious inner white bark 
of young spruce-trees, supplemented by currants, cranberries, 
salmonberries, strawberries, huckleberries, and other berries. 

Besides sea food and fowl, they enjoy the meat of the seal, 
the deer, and the bear, and other wild game. But the five species 
of salmon that abound in their region are perhaps their most 
important food. Salmon is eaten fresh or air- and fire-dried, 
and the heads of salmon and halibut, buried in the ground and 
eaten after some days, in putrefied condition, are a treat fit for 
an honoured guest. The method of wind-drying meat and fish is 
an established Eskimo custom, while smoke-drying, which pro- 
duces a much tastier staple food, is the typical meat-preserving 
method of the Indians of Labrador. The Eskimo habit of storing 
fish in caches and eating them raw, tainted, and frozen, is respon- 
sible for their name * raw-eaters/ as the neighbouring Indians 
call them. 

To the harvesting peoples the plants on which they depend 
during the major part of the year are not only the sources of food 
supply, but also the means of their hospitality. In Australia 
whole tribes are invited to share the feasts held during the lily-root, 
bunya-bunya, and nardoo seasons, and dances and shows are 
enjoyed with the assurance that everybody can eat to his heart's 

In America the Kamia exchange their wild acorns for the 
cultivated water-melons of their Diegueno neighbours. The nut- 
ting parties of the pinon-collecting Apaches are social events, 
paralleled by the season when the mescal tubers are gathered. 
The gathering groups camp in the hills to exchange stories, songs, 
and gossip, and to enjoy one another's company without having 
to worry about empty stomachs. 

Although delicious trout fill the streams of the Apache region, 
they are never eaten, because an old legend maintains that once 
people became very sick after a trout meal. Their skin was 
" spotted just like the fish in the river " and they died shortly 
afterward. " From that day to this," says Reagan, " no Apache 
has eaten fish." The medicine men do their best to keep them 
aware of the ' danger/ 

The fish and the acorns of the Porno are all of ' mythical ' origin. 
The knowledge of acorns came to the Indians during one of the 


five creations of the world (which was destroyed four times by the 
powers of nature). During the third period Marumda, a super- 
natural being posing as an old man, taught them to pick acorns. 
" These you will gather, and with them you will make mush ! " 
He taught the women how to dry, grind, and soak the acorns to 
make them sweet and how to work the dry and pounded flour into 
food. Typically enough, the hospitable Porno women called the 
old man to their hut for the firs*t acorn meal ; but he had vanished. 
They consoled themselves 
with the thought, " He 
must have left us to teach 
other people somewhere 
else." Acorns may be 
eaten raw ; their flour is 
baked into bread, or 
cooked to mush. They 
are also browned and 
brewed to make * coffee.' 

The manifold uses of 
plant products are widely 
developed by the agricul- 
turists, who know how to 
transform the cultivated 
plants into a variety of 
foods. The manioc root 
of the cassava shrub is 
made into * cheese ' by 

the Guarani of Paraguay by fermenting roots for a week in the 
swamps. The mushy substance obtained is also dried in the sun 
and pounded into flour, from which the tasty mandio mbedju 
pancakes are baked. The peeled root is either boiled in water 
or minced, dried, pulverized, and baked in fat as popis. The 
unpeeled root is often baked in the hot ashes. 

The taro (Colocasia) of the South Seas, of Africa, and of Malaya 
requires long and careful preparation. The Melanesian house- 
wife, for instance, carries the taro roots home from the fields 
in the basket on her back. She then makes a roaring fire and 
peels the vegetables with a shell knife. She bundles the clean 
roots, wraps them in banana leaves, adds a second layer of about 
twenty taro leaves, and ties the whole bundle together with lianas. 
According to the size of her family and the number of guests, 
she may need a series of such bundles for an adequate meal. She 
often prepares similar bundles containing left-over peels and some 


After Haberlandt 


young taro leaves for the pigs. After the fire has burnt down 
she removes the hot stones from the hearth and places the taro 
bundles in the smouldering pit, covering them with the hot stones 
and a layer of sand. After two hours the bundles are taken out, 
ready for the table once the wrappings have been removed. The 
pigs, as Kramer-Bannow tells us, impatiently expect their share. 
They are so well kept that their " tender, tasty meat is as fine as 

Another fundamental food plant of the South Seas is sago, 
the marrow of the sago palm, which is cut down, split open, and 
serves as a wooden mould in which the marrow is minced on 
the spot. With the help of an ingenious sieving device, it is 
washed and kneaded in a river, which carries away the floury 
particles and leaves the desired sago lumps. After drying, these 
are either baked into flat, hard bread or cooked into a jelly-like 
mush. For the preparation of the all-important coconut which 
furnishes ' meat ' and juice and oil, multi-shaped crackers, graters, 
and smashers have been invented. 

What the cassava, the taro, and many similar plants like the 
bread-fruit, the mangrove, etc., are to other continents, the banana 
or plantain is to the natives of Africa. It is, indeed, the ' bread ' 
of the Negroes. Often it is roasted or made into soup or gravy. 
Banana flour is obtained from the green fruit, which is peeled, 
cut into pieces, and mashed. Pepper and salt are added, and 
dumplings are made which, cooked in water or palm oil, form the 
basis of many African meals. Meat, fowl, and fish of all kinds 
abound in Africa, where practically everything is used for food, 
from insects, rats, and alligator eggs to elephants and ostriches. 

The main African meal is usually in the evening when the 
heat decreases. Friendly groups turn their gatherings into cele- 
brations. There are dances and shows and music, and the story- 
tellers transform the black night into a colourful stage on which 
the figures of their imaginations go through strange adventures 
and mystical experiences. The Shilluk eat only after sunset and 
consider it a disgrace to eat during day-time under the bright 

One of the strangest African delicacies, especially of the west 
and the regions adjoining the Sudan, is clay or earth. Plischke 
remarks that u persons of high rank eat daily up to three such 
' rolls.' " Fine, fat earth also is used for seasoning and is sold 
in roasted disks or granulated like flour. 

Geophagy, which is the practice of eating earth, is found in 
many other places, including South America, China, and Indonesia. 


The Tatu of California mix their maple flour with red clay. 
' Stone butter ' or ' mined flour ' was eaten in times of need in 
Germany and Russia. During the seventeenth century the noble- 
women of Spain developed such a craving for the tasty earth of 
Ertemoz that State and Church had to lay heavy penalties on this 
' vice.' 

The more palatable mineral known as salt is not known to 
all peoples. Many hunting and food-gathering tribes do not use 
it directly. They season their foods with plants and with the 
spicy ashes of certain woods. 

On the other hand, some African tribes, who count salt among 
the most valuable possessions of man, go long distances to get it 
by trading and, if it is otherwise unobtainable, get it from the 
swamp plants by an exceedingly complicated process. 

No people, however, can subsist without water, which may 
be ' seasoned ' by the addition of cherished plant ingredients to 
turn it into a beverage fit for social occasions. Among these 
additions to drinking water tea is perhaps the most generally 
used. It is believed that it came from Assam to China, where 
its popularity grew from the fourth century A.D., although an 
ancient document has been found, dating back to 59 B.C., in 
which an obstinate slave is ordered in humorous verse to " boil 
tea and fill utensils.'' The earliest use of tea was for medical 
purposes. The leaves were eaten with rice, ginger, salt, orange- 
peel, and milk, and even boiled with onions. 

Its stimulating qualities and its aromatic flavour make tea one 
of the most ' social ' drinks of the world. Tea ceremonies be- 
long to the most finely developed traditions of Asia. The indis- 
pensable tea of Paraguay, wrongly known as * mate,' the name 
of the calabash from which it is sipped with the bombilla, has 
especially stimulating effects. No party among the Indians 
would be complete without it. 

What coffee, the other warm beverage that conquered the 
world, can taste like is known only to those who have sipped it 
in its native continent, Africa. Named after the southern 
Abyssinian province of Kaffa, from which it hails, its fifty species 
are now cultivated in most tropical regions of the globe. Only 
during the fifteenth century was the knowledge of it transmitted 
to Arabia and Java, and not until two hundred years later did 
it conquer the countries of South America and the rest of the 

When a group of burnous-garbed Arabs sit down at their 
chess-boards to have a good time with the ' divine drink ' no 


tea ceremony of Japan could outdo the tradition-honoured love 
with which the host prepares coffee in the African manner. 
The green beans are freshly roasted in a wooden bowl filled with 
glimmering charcoals. Each bean is individually removed with a 
wooden pincer and inspected. The roasted beans are then pounded 
in a wooden mortar with an iron pestle and the very fine powder is 
put in a vessel of water, which is brought to the boiling-point. It is 
then poured into an earthenware jug and blended with throe to four 
other brews of coffee. After this intricate preparation the guests' 
cups are filled, and a fragrance of the Arabian Nights permeates the 
room to inspire the conversation of the appreciative guests. 

Chocolate is another delicious - tasting beverage which has 
gained wide popularity. Chocolate and cacao, from which it is 
made, are the cultural property of the Indians of Central America. 
They invented the drink from the cacahuatl beans of the Theobroma 
cacao L. shrub. When the white explorers reached the empires of 
the Toltecs and Aztecs they found not only the strange new beverage 
but also that cacao beans were used as coins. Some Indians even 
to-day use cacao beans as money, especially in Guatemala. 

To make the beverage as the old Mexicans drank it, the cacao 
beans are roasted, grated, and pulverized on a stone slab and 
mixed with seasonings such as vanilla and pepper. Sugar was 
unknown, and only the wealthy could afford to sweeten their 
cacao either with honey or with the juice of the agave. 

In 1520 the knowledge of cacao reached Europe with the Spanish 
conquerors. About a hundred years later it spread from Spain 
to Italy and to France, where it became tremendously popular. 
The sweetened, thickened mass known as chocolate conquered 
the world market only after the Dutchman, van Houten, had 
found ways to free the cacao powder of its heavy oils, thereby 
making the drink a much tastier one and easier to digest. 

Although cacao is the classic drink of its native Central America, 
and although the plant is now cultivated in many tropical places, 
it was a beverage of primitive man only within a rather limited 
region and has not had large effects upon primitive cultures as a 
whole. Only the initiative of the white man and his business 
sense helped chocolate to its present position in the world market. 

As pleasant as the enjoyment of a stimulating beverage is the 
habit of chewing some substance, the juices of which, together 
with the act of chewing, often have a soothing effect on the nerves. 
For the primitives of Melanesia, Micronesia, East India, and 
the Malayan Archipelago the chewing of betel from the areca 
nut is a supreme pleasure. Indian merchants brought the know- 


ledge of this treat to East Africa, where it keeps the natives' jaws 

busy most of the time. As a gesture of hospitality, the welcome 

guest is offered a packet of this special ' chewing 

gum.' The packet contains a slice of the areca 

nut, powdered with lime or coral rag, and 

wrapped in a fresh leaf of the betel-pepper 

plant. It has a refreshing if bitter taste, but 

has the disadvantage of discolouring the teeth 

with a blackish tint and dyeing an addict's gums 

an unappealing brown colour. The habit of 

betel-chewing has produced a wide range of 

carved or otherwise fancily decorated containers 

for holding the favourite ingredients. 

Similar lime boxes were carried around by the 
ancient Chibchas of Colombia, who were especi- 
ally fond of another chewing stimulant, the coca. 
Long before modern science recognized the 
medical qualities of cocaine, which comes from 


After Hambrnch 

the leaves of the Erythroxylon coca shrub, the natives of Colombia, 
Bolivia, and Peru chewed the bitter leaves with lime to experience 
the sensation of new vigour that it quickly produces. Especially 

in the white world, the over- 
indulgence in cocaine, pre- 
pared in more sophisticated 
and dangerous combinations, 
has led to most tragic results, 
which are counteracted by 
legislation in all civilized 

Other famed stimulants that 
have caused much misery to 
entire nations are opium, which 
comes from poppy seed, and 
the dangerous hemp known 
since Marco Polo's times as 
' the key to Paradise.' The 
word * assassin ' is derived 

from the name of the hemp addicts, the hachiches, who, during 
their rages of hashish drunkenness, were used centuries ago by 
the old Sheik al Chebel to kill his enemies. To anyone interested 
in hashish, Baudelaire's Paradis artificiels is a classic description of 
glowing, bizarre, and frightening visions described by a great artist 
whose own health was ruined by it. 






After W. E. Safford 


The smoking of hemp and opium was probably known to the 
prehistoric Lake Dwellers, as extant implements indicate. Indeed, 
many primitive peoples had thorough knowledge concerning 
narcotic drugs derived from various plants drugs which they 
ate, snuffed, or drank in concoctions. 

In the primitive world, however, the desire to let the mind 
sojourn in * artificial paradise ' often had religious reasons. When 
tribesmen get together to enjoy the state of visionary drunkenness 


After Le Moyne (1564) 

caused by a drug their gathering is mostly of a ritual nature. In 
some tribes only the medicine man knows the magic of the drug ; 
in others, the soldiers bolster their courage by artificial means 
just before a battle. Probably the only tribes of the acquisitive 
economic stage who knew opiates are the Australians, who use a 
woven container to hold the cherished pituri leaves (Duboisia 
Hopwoodii) which they chew to project themselves into a dreamlike 
state of mind. 

In New Guinea nonda, a wild mushroom which makes the 
user temporarily insane, is eaten ' in times of great excitement.' 
Many American Indians are fully familiar with intoxicating drugs. 
Among the many species used by them are the * Jamestown weed * 
of the Zufii, the peyotl cactus (used by many mystical cults on 
the North American prairies, in Mexico, and elsewhere), the 
narcotic piptadenia snuff, the ' black drink ' of Florida, and the 


notorious marijuana which figures so frequently to-day in American 
juvenile delinquency. 

There is a difference between these drugs and 
the lighter stimulants, between excess and modera- 
tion. Only fanatics can deny the beneficial in- 
spiration that comes to the human mind from 
one of the oldest providers of joy and friendly 
hospitality tobacco. Its blue clouds have pro- 
vided the touch of intimacy to any place where 
friends get together to exchange their opinions ; 
they have inspired many an inventor and philo- 
sopher with creative ideas in his quiet den. Even 
saints and monks have not resisted the silent TUCANO INDIAN 
company of a contemplative smoke. 

Modern scientists are not unanimous in their 
opinions about the origin of the tobacco-smoking 
custom. Although Lindblom stated in 1947 that 
"probably every one is now agreed that tobacco reached America 
from the Old World," many contemporary students of this ques- 
tion still believe with Nordenskiold that "snuff, cigarettes, cigars, 



Cherokee Pipe of Black Stone 

Tobacco Pipe 

Pangwe, West Africa 
After G. Tessmann 

Pipe of the Yakuts 
Museum of Ethnology, Hamburg 

Tobacco Pipe 

Pangwe, West Africa 
After G. Tessmann 

pronged cigar-holders, and tobacco-pipes are Indian inventions." 
Be that as it may, the first white men who came to the American 
continent were amazed by the native habit of "producing smoke 



from an herb held in the mouth " and took the knowledge home with 
them. Early in the sixteenth century it was popular as a remedy 
against toothache, gout, and many other 
ailments. Jean Nicot, a French ambassador 
at the Portuguese court, introduced it to 
the royal circles of his country. He won 
fame as the inventor of the nicotiana, that 

BUNDLED CIGARS AND 'healing herb > whose powderized leaves 
were given as a medicine to the son of 
Catherine of Medici. 

The use of tobacco for smoking became 
popular in Europe only at a much later date. 
Since then the controversies among the 
enemies of the * devil's herb ' and the friends of the * breath of 
the gods ' have continued through the centuries. Staal, one of the 


Codex Florentine 

After Sahagun 


Codex Vindebonensis 

Nationalbibliothek , Vienna 


Stone Relief at the Temple 
of Palenque 

After Abbt Brasseur 
de Bourbourg 

ablest historians of tobacco, is correct in his statement that " no 
other plant has influenced as extensively as the tobacco the economic 
and cultural life of all humanity." 

Tobacco was first used for ceremonial purposes, the Indian 
pipe of peace being the well-known example. The forms in 



which it is enjoyed vary widely, even on its native continent. 
There are the * smoke rolls ' of South America ; the gigantic 
cigars (the word cifar is of Central American origin) held in place 
by huge carved forks by the Tucano Indians ; the eating of the 
leaves practised by the California Chukchansi, the Gashowu, the 
Tachi, the Wukchami, the Yaudanchi, and 
the Yauelmani, among others. 

Another practice is to mix the leaves 
with burnt mussel-shell powder, as do 
the northernmost tribes of the Pacific 
Coast. Drinking a concoction of tobacco 
in water is known in some places and, 
according to Kroeber, " the Chukchansi 
speak of being able to detect wizards after 
eating tobacco." The Labrador Indians 
appease the spirit of a killed bear with the 
offering of a ceremonial smoke of bark 
tobacco. Whenever the white man's smok- 
ing herb is not available the Eskimos 
depend on their own ancient brand, the 

Many North American Indian tribes 
cultivate their own tobacco and trade it 
widely ; others gather the wild varieties. 
It is the only plant cultivated by the 
Yurok, otherwise a non-agricultural people. 

The reaction of the natives of other 
primitive regions to the introduction of 
tobacco is very varied. In New Guinea, 
where it is smoked as well as chewed, men, 
women, and children roll their own cigars 
from the traded or cultivated tobacco 
leaves. In contrast to this, the Ponape 
natives " never learned to appreciate the 

enjoyment of tobacco." Other Pacific Islanders prefer it merely 
as a * seasoning J for their betel quid. The natives of Africa, 
however, have become regular addicts of the herb. Albert 
Schweitzer calls the Lambarene region " this land of the chronic 
nicotine poisoning," and states that women are even more excessive 
smokers than the men. Due to their over-indulgence, they suffer 
from insomnia and " go on smoking all through the night, to dull 
their nerves." An employee of the British- American Tobacco 
Company wrote about the East African Kavarondos : " We 


Haida Indians 

Museum of Ethnology, 



packed our cigarettes in boxes of four, because the Kavarondos 

smoke four at a time, putting one in 
each corner of the mouth, and one in 
each nostril." 

The Pangwe cultivate four varieties 
of tobacco. The Nuer * improve ' the 
taste of tobacco by added mixtures of 
ashes and cow-dung, and smoke the 
blend in enormous clay pipes with 
pumpkin bowls. From the simple 
tubular pipe to the red and black 
North American models carved from 
the ' holy pipe-stone,' to the richly 
decorated clay, slate, and wooden 
pipes of the world, receptacles for 
the * divine herb ' have been shaped 
by all peoples in manifold varieties. 
Many African tales explain the origin 
of tobacco as a supernatural gift of 
the black man's gods. The glowing 
pipes of the jungle belong to the very 
conception of the enjoyment of life at 
its best. 

the tobacco 

pipes of the high cultures the water pipe 

of India, China, Persia, and Arabia is 

perhaps the most picturesque. It is an 

apparatus consisting of a water-filled 

container, usually a coconut or an ostrich 

egg-shell or a clay or porcelain vessel, 

topped by a tube carrying the tobacco- 
filled pipe head. The user inhales the 

cool water - cleaned smoke through a 

special mouthpiece attached to a thin 

tube which is connected with the con- 
tainer. Groups of Mussulmans like to 

sit together in the evening in the shade 

of their yards, discussing the world and 

themselves while peacefully sucking the 

smoke, often from different tubes all 

attached to one narghile (from the Persian nargil, * coconut '). 

The Arabian and Indian water pipe, the hookah, has found its 

primitive imitators in many regions of Africa. 


North Cameroons 

Museum of Ethnology, 


Museum of Ethnology, 



When we think of a group of men smoking and having a good time 
the picture of amicable exchange of thoughts and of tall-story 
telling is incomplete without one of the oldest lifters of the spirit 
a container filled with an alcoholic beverage of some kind. 
Alcohol is by no means a product of civilization. The aperitif 
served on a silver tray in the cafes of the Champs-filysees, the 
whisky of the English clubs, the wines of the Moselle, the Rhine, 
and the Champagne all have their forerunners in the beers and 
wines of the primitive agriculturists, and in the fermented milk 
drinks of the early herdsmen. 

The making of alcohol requires the dis- 
covery of the process of fermentation, which 
probably came about in a relatively simple 
way. Perhaps some primitive who had 
crumbled his bread into a container filled 
with water noticed, the next day, bubbles 
rising to the surface and a solid substance 
at the bottom of the vessel. Tasting this 
' water/ he found himself getting into an 
unusually merry mood, so he decided to go 
further into the matter. Another savage 
might have cut the stem of an agave, and 
after drinking its juice carried the rest 
home in his calabash. A few hours later, 
observing that the juice in the container 
had undergone a change, he tasted the stuff A f ter Hans s P rer (H98) 
and found it worthy of investigation. 

All alcoholic beverages fall into two general types : wine, in which 
the alcohol is created directly from sugar,, and beer, in which the 
alcohol is produced from sugar by the addition of starches. A side 
branch is the fermentation of lactose (milk sugar) in the milk drinks 
of the herdsmen. 

Among the wines of primitive tribes palm wine is one of the 
most widely known varieties. Often, the trees are cut down and 
their crowns raised on a supporting structure. All along the 
upper surface of the trunk, openings the size of a child's hand 
are cut. A small fire is started beneath, and the juice accumulating 
in the openings is collected in calabashes. It is then put in con- 
tainers which are covered, stored away, and left for fermentation. 
After three to four days the beverage is ready for consumption, 
and the drinking bouts which are just as popular in the jungle 
as in our cocktail lounges can begin. In tropical climates the juice 
drained off in the morning ferments by noon and foams over the 
top of the container. The fermentation is caused by yeast germs 





from the air. They change the sugar of the juice into alcohol 
and carbonic acid. The substance which settles at the bottom of 
the container is yeast. 

Many African tribes obtain their palm wine without felling the 
tree. They climb and tap the tree at the top, where the juicy 
young shoots come out. This is done in the evening. In the 
morning, by which time the drink is ready, the calabashes in the 
trees are a welcome sight to the thirsty the innkeeper's sign in 
the jungle. The yellowish, effervescing palm wine of thfe Pangwe 

has t( a strange fine flavour which 
one never forgets. " 

Pulque, the forerunner of which 
was the octli of the Aztecs, is made 
from the huge shaft of the agave 
flower. Many North American 
Indian tribes brew their wine 
from cactus plants, like the 
STILL FOR THE DISTILLATION Papago who use the saguaro fruit 
OF PALM-WINE and during wine time have a 

Moluccas series of elaborate festivals during 

After Martin which the medicine men perform 

rain magic. Maize, sweet potatoes, 

manioc, and sugar-cane furnish the drinks for the celebrations 
of all tropical merry-makers. 

The Khonds of India make their wine from the salopo gaxo 
palm-tree, which furnishes twenty to twenty-five litres of wine 
daily ; during blossom-time they " do nothing but drink/' It is 
the time of boundless merry-making and dancing. The Meginakan 
festival of Borneo is an elaborate affair which only the wealthy 
can afford. Their nassi wine is obtained from rice. Gongs are 
beaten when it is ready, and pigs and fowl are prepared in huge 
quantities to feed the celebrants. 

Beer is a favourite drink of the Apache, who obtain it from 
mescal tubers. The Neoze of eastern Bolivia brew it mostly 
from wild honey, maize, or yucca. Some tribes speed up the 
fermentation by kneading ; others by chewing the ingredients. 

African brewers are even more numerous than the wine manu- 
facturers. Every one who has ever penetrated the Dark Continent 
has been invited to join the happy celebrants of whole villages 
in native ' beer gardens.' 

The customary beer of the primitive Himalaya tribes, is the 
maruwa, obtained from millet and other grains. Their " steins/' 
in which the beverage is brewed, are bamboo sections with banana 


i6 S 

After K. Weule 

leaves for covers. The drinkers sip it with small tubes and fill 
the container again and again with hot water, until the brew has 
lost its stimulating qualities. The Buddhist monks, not unlike 
their colleagues in other parts of the world, are the most expert 
brewers of this beer. 

The invention of distillation, 
which results in beverages with 
higher alcoholic content, is a matter 
of speculation. Perhaps the rays of 
the tropical sun, heating a vessel 
containing wine, caused small drops 
to accumulate on the inside of the 
cover and these drops were found 
to be of a more concentrated nature 
than those in the container. With 

the elongation of the cover and the addition of a cooling system 
for the alcoholic vapours, the distillery apparatus was created. 
This is the way the natives of the Moluccas make brandy from 
palm wine. Java, Siam, Ceylon, and the Malabar coast are the 
regions where more intricate distillery apparatus have led to the 
manufacture of multiple types of brandy. 

Missionaries of the year 1253 mention the 
famed kumyss brandy made in the immense 
territories from the Buryat Mountains in 
central Siberia to northern Tibet and in the 
Kirghiz region. Marco Polo tasted it on his 
travels. Abul Ghazi described it in 1251 as 
" clear like doubly distilled corn brandy." 
Kumyss is made from the milk of camels and 
donkeys and is fermented with lumps of 

Tales and poetry of primitive man are full 
of witticisms about drinking and drinkers. 
The Haya proverb that " the beer made by 
naked men is drunk by the dressed up " has 
a touch of social criticism the rich enjoy what the poor produce. 
The Kpando of Togo have the habit of flattering each other 
when their calabashes make the rounds. The last drops of drink 
are poured on the ground, and the guest gives his own drinking 
name, to which others add complimentary remarks. He may say 
" Da tso mo " (The snake crosses the path), to which the others 
add, " Medzina kpo o " (He is not afraid of the stick !). Another's 
name may be Klongo (Turtle Shell), to which his friends shout, 



After A. Byhan 


" We are old turtle shells ! " (No insect or small animal can hurt 
this smart creature, protected by its shell.) 

There is wisdom in this drinking song of the Dusun of northern 
Borneo : 

Large is the pool outside, 

We don't get headache 

Small is the pool in the house, 

And we get the headache. 

They may drink from a pool of water in the field, explains 
the explorer Staal, without feeling ill effects, but the little pool 
in the house, namely, the vessel filled with wine, gives them a 

Indeed, since the times of Anacreon and Li-Tai-Po, the song 
of the wine has been sung by the poets of all ages. The Aztec 
god, Xipe, was known as ' the Nocturnal Drinker.' The drinking 
of pulque was restricted in the oldest times to the venerable * old 
men and women/ except during the great Tecuilhuitontli feast, 
when all men, women and even children were allowed to enjoy 
it without restriction. 

Four different kinds of beer were brewed in the Egypt of 
2500 B.C., and the story of the ' divine ' origin of the beverage 
dates back to 4000 B.C. One ancient tablet covered with hiero- 
glyphs reads : " Do not let the drinking of beer overtake thee, 
thou falleth and breaketh thy bone and none tends his hand 
to thee, thy companions keep on drinking and say, ' Away with 
him who is drunk ! ' " How similar are these words to their modern 
version heard by the author in a small American Negro church : 
" Do not be a can which the Lord opens only to find beer in it ! " 

The excessive consumption of beer seems to have been common 
among Egyptian students, judging from what a scholar wrote 
to his pupil long before the birth of Christ : " I am told that 
thou leaveth thy books and thou abandoneth thyself to pleasure ; 
thou goeth from street to street every evening while the smell 
of beer chaseth men away from thee and ruineth thy soul. Thou 
art seen climbing walls and breaking into houses ; people flee 
from thee and thou injureth them." 

However, we would not do justice to the good times enjoyed 
by the members of the human race if we should consider eating, 
smoking, drinking, and the like as the only elements of joy and 
entertainment. Dances, games, and sports events are often held 
for the sake of their own virtues, and the generally playful attitude 
of primitive man expresses itself in many activities of a thoroughly 
sober nature. 


Even the primitive child comes into its right. All peoples on 
earth brighten their youngsters' early years 
by the invention of toys, which are created 
either for the sake of play alone, or for an 
educational purpose. The African Pangwe 
children play a * marble ' game with round 
pebbles. Palm nuts are their ninepins. 
They have dolls, pea-shooters, whipping- 
tops, string-pulled puppets, magic games 
and puzzles, stilts, diminutive crossbows, 
animal traps, and drums. They pull tows WOODEN BIRD C DANO 
and run races in short, they have all the ING J ON BOW-STRING 
possessions a happy child could ask for. Toy from the Santa 

As for the dolls of the wilderness, the Cruz Islands 

models made by the Choroti Indian women Museum of Ethnology, 
for their little girls are among the strangest. Basle (after Speiser-Foy) 
Often the head of the doll is so tiny that it 

is hardly noticeable, and consequently they distribute the face 
tattoos all over the body. Since the children of the wilderness 


Dolls of Elm Bark and 
Willow Withes 

Chippewa Indians 
After F. Densmore 

Clay Dolls of the Choroti 

' Woman ' * Woman with 
Baby Girl ' 

Rio Pilcomayo, Bolivia 
After Nordenskib'ld 




From the Ruins of Susa, 
2000 B.C. 

Louvre, Paris 

are accustomed to the sight of the naked human body these dolls 

leave nothing to the imagination. 

Equally realistic were the dolls of ancient Egypt, which featured 

movable arms, and wigs of woven hair, interwoven with tiny 

clay balls in imitation of balls of grease typical of the coiffures 

of the Nubian housemaids. Another 
favourite toy was * the baker at work/ 
a movable human figure mounted on 
a board. When a string was pulled 
the man moved a lump of clay back 
and forth, * kneading the dough/ 
Dolls' houses with tiny furniture 
including mirrors and movable chests 
of drawers were built for the Egyptian 
offspring. They had animals drawn 
on strings ; crocodiles with movable 

jaws. Preferred animal pets were monkeys and birds like the 

hoopoe, with its spectacular head-dress. 

The games of the grown-ups all over the world are as manifold 

as human imagination itself, with perhaps dances predominating. 

But even very primitive tribes, like the Australians, feature wrestling 

matches, spear-throwing contests, ball games, and, expecially, 

the string games which are also known in Polynesia, America, 

Africa, and many other places of the world. All parlour games 

we can possibly imagine have their 

primitive prototypes and equivalents, 

from memory games to games played 

on boards and often based on chance 

games which can ruin a man in 

primitive currency as easily as the 

white man's horse - races. Perhaps 

the best known of all these games is the 

mankala game, common to practically the entire African continent. 
The Ubangi tribes, who are fanatic enthusiasts of the kuka 

game, lose loads of cowrie money snails during their feverish 

sessions, which are exclusively ' stag ' affairs, because, as the 

explorer Leyder puts it : " The women do not play. They haven't 

got the time." 

Some primitive tribes even play games at funerals. The spirit 

of the deceased is supposed to take part in determining the winner 

and the loser. This custom is especially developed among South 

American Indian tribes. One such game has been very vividly 

described by the ethnologist Karsten : 

A I -J < ^ I _^ | 4 | 4 L -^ 

J ra m r* nanana 


Pangwe, West Africa 

After G. Tessmann 


The rest of the night is spent in playing another kind of game, 
with burning balls of cotton. Upon the board which was placed 
on the stomach of the dead Indian a small cotton ball is made and 
set on fire. The playing men arrange themselves on both sides 
of the corpse and blow the burning cotton hither and thither upon 
the board, keeping the small ball in constant motion. Each player 
who finds the ball in front of himself immediately blows it to the 
other side, from where another player blows it in another direction, 
and so forth. The aim of the game is to nullify all dangers of 
contagion proceeding from the dead body, since it is feared that the. 
disease-demon may carry off other persons among the relatives 

This sombre purpose, however, does not prevent the par- 
ticipants from full enjoyment of the fever of the game. The 
general South American custom of making a feast for the living 
out of the memory of the dead is strong even in to-day's modern 
cities. There is not much difference between the * food offered 
to the dead on the Day of the Souls ' by the Quiche-speaking 
Indians of Ecuador and to-day's modern Mexican habit of selling 
candy skulls with fancy sugar decorations on the streets on the 
' Day of the Souls/ gifts fondly exchanged by lovers, with their 
initials in sugar on the top. 

The frigate bird of the South Seas also furnishes many oppor- 
tunities for joyous sports. Although its keeper is a ' holy ' man, 
who wears his feather bracelet as the mystical ' husband ' of the 
spirit of the soul bird, as the Doge of Venice wore a ring as husband 
to the sea, the frigate-bird worship is a popular sport, especially 
among the islanders of Naoero. The birds must first be tamed. 
Property marks indicating their individual owners are cut into their 
wings and tails so that they can be easily recognized while in the 
air. The whole neighbourhood gets excited when a new bird has 
been tamed. * Oreita mena ' (* Now he begs ') is a call of joy. The 
owners carefully feed the birds with fish, and give them drinking 
water from their own mouths. When they are tame enough to be 
attached permanently to their masters they are let free again. Then 
they can take part in contests with other birds, in which the height 
of their flight and similar skills are judged. 

Most birds of the islands and there are many species are 
tamed and trained by the native sportsmen. Among them is the 
nocturnal ederakui, whose name has become the nickname of native 
Don Juans. Cock-fights, pig-fights, and fish-fights are the order 
of the day. Although dragon-flies are * reincarnations of the 
departed/ the children tame them and keep them near home on a 


branch of a tree, from which they attack any fellow dragon-flies 
flying by, to the great joy of the onlookers. 

This type of game is a regular sport, but in primitive pastimes 
the border-line between play and sport is often hard to draw. 

The simple sport of walking is not popular. It is too natural to 
be noticed. Even if primitive hikers, often heavily laden with 
bulky packs, walk great distances over difficult terrain, they are not 
considered to have achieved a record. Running also evokes little 
admiration. It is too necessary for earning a livelihood to be 
regarded as a special sport by peoples who run a game animal to 
death in steady pursuit, like the Australians, the Bushmen, and the 
Hottentots with whom, Peter Kolb reported in 1719, no man on 
horseback was able to hold pace. Other extraordinarily gifted 
runners are the Tarahumare who live in the Sierra Madre Moun- 
tains of northern Mexico. They are recognized even by other 
tribes as ralamari y or runners. They can run distances of over two 
hundred miles without stopping. The Geri, who live on Tiburon 
Island in the Gulf of California, can run a strong deer to death. 
They are able to catch up with a galloping horse within a short 
time. They train from earliest childhood, and their slender, well- 
proportioned bodies and the sheer love of their own strength make 
such performances possible. 

Climbing, in which similar astounding records are set, also is 
not recognized as a sport in primitive societies, although the 
climbing abilities displayed in reaching fruits in the tops of tall 
trees, taking eggs from birds' nests, cutting wild honeycombs, etc., 
are often so impressive that even onlookers of similar skill reward 
their best men with expressions of special esteem. 

The sport that most attracts primitive fans is high jumping, 
which the Watusi of East Africa, a tribe of exceptionally tall and 
slender build, consider the expression of admirable virility. No 
young man who cannot jump as high as his own body measures is 
accepted as grown up. Using low termitaries and similar objects 
as jumping boards, they reach heights averaging eight feet without 

The throwing of objects is the favourite sport of many peoples, 
with the stone perhaps the oldest discus. The sure hands of these 
skilled hunters and the very nature of many of their weapons train 
them to early mastership in this sport. The connoisseurs among 
the North American Indian spectators value the finesse of the player 
and his skill and versatility much more highly than the actual 
strength he displays. Pieces of sugar-cane, beaver teeth, nuts, or 
lumps of clay are used as darts, and fixed rules determine the course 


of the play, in which two groups compete against each other. 
Among the Zuni the showialtowe dart game is of ceremonial sig- 
nificance, its equipment being consecrated on the altar of the war 
god, the patron saint of the game. 

The boomerang, that ancient hunting and sports tool of the 
Australians, migrated also to other parts of the globe. It is found 
among some North American Indian tribes, in India and in Egypt, 
where whole army divisions were equipped with it until the end of 
the nineteenth century. The spear duel, often customary as a 
method of deciding inter- tribal feuds, is regarded as a supreme 
expression of sportsmanship in the Fiji Islands, in America, in 
Africa, and in New Guinea. 

Among the sports which are a source of joy to the high cultures, 
as well as to the most primitive tribes, are wrestling matches, which 
draw thunderous applause everywhere, from Australia to Brazil, 
from Africa to Finland, from Polynesia to the Caucasus, from 
south-east Asia to Japan, where the sumotori rank among the 
national heroes. 

Boxing is equally cherished in all forms of civilization. The 
native king of the Tonga Islands ordered boxing matches to be 
held at regular intervals by his subjects. The primitive boxing 
glove is either non-existent or is a thick string padding. On the 
Mortlock Islands shark's teeth turn the boxing hand into a dan- 
gerous weapon the man who falls down first is the loser. Even 
umpires are known at primitive sporting events. In Hawaii he 
interferes when unfair moves are made, or when the fight lasts too 
long. He separates the fighters with a wooden stick. 

Swimming is not regarded as a sport, but surf-riding on wooden 
boards leads to keen contests on the Polynesian Islands, the winner 
being the man who first reaches the beach without toppling over. 

Perhaps the most popular sport of all is the ball game, that age- 
old favourite of Indians, Negroes, Europeans, and Egyptians. Most 
of our well-known games have their roots in primitive tribal ball 
games. These games often had magical or symbolic meanings 
an evidence of their venerable age. 

When the whaling season draws near, the Makah Indians play 
hockey with a whalebone for a ball and a bat symbolizing the war- 
god's club. In an ancient Aztec codex, the gods of light and 
darkness play ball with each other ; and it was one of the duties of 
the ancient Mexican rulers to watch, at midnight, the stellar con- 
stellation of Ursa Major, known to their people as the ' ball-play 
arena of the stars.' Ball games, especially of the North American 
Indians, are so various that they are worthy of study in themselves. 



Lacrosse and other two-goal games, such as shinny and pogatowan, 
use balls of different sizes and shapes. Most often they are made 
of soft leather such as deerskin, and stuffed with grass or plant 
fibres. The prototype of the European soccer ball is the football 
of the Eskimos, made of stuffed hide and about the size of the 
college model. 

The balls of ancient Egypt consisted of two hemispheroidal 
shells of leather or fine linen, stuffed with straw or finely cut reed 

^ 1:7 

- ^/K 



Mandan Indians 

Mono Indians Aftef p Demmore 

Passamaquoddy Indians 

Field Columbian 

and sewn together to form a ball of about four inches in diameter. 
Smaller balls of multi-coloured siliceous earth were very fragile 
and brought out the dexterity of skilled players. 

The difference between mere pastimes or entertainment and 
regular feasts and celebrations was sharply developed in the high 
cultures. Victory celebrations, anniversaries, weddings, religious 
and national holidays are held at set dates and can be determined 
in advance, a mental and time-conscious approach which is com- 
pletely alien to the primitive mind. All the different ways in 
which the general, spontaneous, and indefinite good times of the 
children of nature express themselves informally are co-ordinated 
in the great official celebrations of the classic and pre- classic times. 
Pompous parades, dances, shows, games, eating and drinking 
feasts are combined in great celebrations. These celebrations are 
sanctioned by Church, State, and society. 

The Chibcha divided their year into three well-defined parts, 


one of which was dedicated to feasts. For the Mohammedan, the 
time of joy begins after the Ramadan ; for the Catholic, it ends 
with Ash Wednesday. The feasts of civilization have been co- 
ordinated by plan. Whoever the host family, group, club, 
government, Church, or nation planned and purposeful conven- 
tion has entered our merry-making. This may make our parties 
and feasts more glamorous, but whether it allows them to equal 
the spirit of gay improvisation, the hilarious joy of being happy for 
the sake of happiness that characterizes the blissful gathering of the 
jungle and of the prairies, we may well wonder. 


On the Roads of Land and Water 

WHEN OUR GLEAMING cars whiz over the highways, when our 
railways carry speed-breaking trains to their destination, a 
feeling of high achievement often inflates the ego of the modern 
traveller. We are * going places/ 

American Museum of Natural History, New York 

Yet, although the vehicles of our travel and their speed would, 
even a century ago, have seemed fantastic, the use and construction 
of roads which bring the immense distances of the globe closer 
together the roads of strategy and of trade belong to the oldest 
achievements of mankind. The necessity of using an important 
trail again and again, whether it was the path to the next water-hole 
or the caravan route over mountains and through the desert, has 



created streets of venerable age. When a path was cleared through 
jungle growth, rocks, trees, and other obstacles, precious time could 
be won. The places where food and water abounded could be 
reached more quickly, and travellers were protected on their 
journeys to the trading places. The danger of being lost in the 
wilderness was considerably reduced when directions were con- 
fidently marked by roads ; neighbours could be visited and new 
areas explored. The great migrations of peoples and the trans- 
mittal of cultural elements were facilitated by the roads. Roads 
are the great symbols of peace or war, the bonds between men and 
ideas since the dawn of time. 

Along these all-important arteries the traffic between tribes and 
peoples, between villages and markets, between the coast and the 
interior, pulsed in the olden times as it does to-day. The story of 
the great roads of history is the story of history itself. 

In Africa the caravans and safaris have moved from Lake Chad 
and Timbuktu to the North Coast, from the Nile and Niger through 
the Sudan where Sokoto, Kano, and similar centres of trade 
attracted the merchants. Legendary is the ancient road from Egypt 
to the Columns of Hercules. The entire Dark Continent was and 
is to-day lined by a network of trails from the Mediterranean to 
the interior. 

In Europe the Danubian culture of prehistoric times sprang up 
along the banks of the proud river and became the centre of cultural 
exchange through the millenniums. The ancient * salt streets ' of 
Europe which enabled the distribution of the mineral from the 
mines to the trading centres of the interior have maintained this 
name even to-day Reichenhall and Halle on the Saale were their 
terminals, and the Danube, the Elbe, and the Loire were their 
trade routes. 

In Asia Minor the road from Baghdad to Basra is of immortal 
memory since the tales of the Arabian Nights ; and on the roads 
between the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea waves after 
waves of migrating peoples streamed into Europe. Marco Polo's 
travels followed the ancient ' silk roads ' from Samarkand to the 
Hindu Rush, from the Gobi to Peiping. On these silk roads the 
precious Chinese fabric moved from Central and Anterior Asia into 
the Roman Empire. Trade relations between them began in 
114 B.C. Ptolemseus reports that the travel from Liangchow, then 
the capital of China, to the Pamir Plateau took seven months. 

In America the great trading expeditions of the Mayas moved 
every year over great distances. The natives even mapped the 
famed road from Xicalano, through the primeval forests to the 



gold regions of Honduras, on which Cortes moved during his 
adventurous expedition of 1524-25. 

Primitive trails are not so spectacular, but they are certainly 
equally old or older. Having more the character of direction 
markers than of roads, their course is largely determined by the 
difficulties of the country ; they wind through the continents in 
short cuts and mountain passes, as the terrain allows. The covered 
wagons of the American pioneers travelled the ancient trails of the 
red man ; many state and federal highways follow old Indian paths. 


After K. Weule 

The Louisiana road from Chinuba to Lake Pontchartrain is still 
known as the Indian Road, and a highway in Colorado is laid on 
the Sante Fe Trail. 

We saw that the great rivers of the earth are important deter- 
minants in the migrations of goods and men. The names of the 
Nile, Hwang Ho, Euphrates, Tigris, St Lawrence, Missouri, 
Mississippi, and Amazon are closely related to the history of man- 
kind through the millenniums. The river roads stimulated mer- 
cantile exchange and created cultural centres. The rivers of the 
Lower Congo have transformed whole tribes into trading peoples 
a phenomenon repeated all over the globe. 

To connect these mighty water roads by the building of canals 
is one of the earliest architectural achievements of man. Great 
was the fame of the Emperor Yang-ti (605-618) whose experts 
constructed the glorious Emperor Canal. In the regions of the 
Amazon early efforts solved the problem of the annual floods by 


building numerous canals, especially in the Mojos province, and 
modern scientists are inclined to believe that the mighty waterway 
between the Orinoco and the Rio Negro is the work of human hands. 
While rivers and waterways may connect countries and peoples, 
they are often apt to hinder the traveller who must cross them to 



After Sapper 

reach his destination. To overcome this drawback, and so extend 
roads even over intersecting waters, man invented the bridge. 
Primitive tribes have worked out many methods of getting over 
rivers and abysses, methods which vary from the simplest devices 
to structures of great technical complication and stability. 

In the rocks of the Himalayas primitive herdsmen have hollowed 
out holes in which the traveller inserts bamboo rungs to climb 
either upwards or downwards, slowly and perilously. Bamboo 
canes may be used to bridge an abyss. Tows of yak hair are 
affixed from tree-tops on opposite sides of a stream and used like 
bos'un's chair rigs, with the traveller hanging from a stick or small 

i 7 8 


woven seat attached to the tow. The tow bridge fixed on both 
sides of an abyss is a customary device used by Peruvian Indians of 
the Andes. The Aymaras of South America build floating bridges ; 
the Huari balance forward on bamboo poles laid across a stream, 
and the Quiche use cantilever constructions. One or two lianas, 
spanning a river, are used as bridges by the Botocudos and Siriones. 
Among the finest achievements of primitive bridge builders are 
the famed interwoven liana bridges of complicated structure which 
can be found as a cultural property of many tribes of Melanesia, 
Africa, South America, India, and Indo-China. Such web-like 


After Bolinder 

bridges are solidly interwoven and have the shape of a long, semi- 
circular basket, the sides of which reach to the hips or shoulders of 
the passer. Trees or poles rammed in along the shore serve as 
anchoring posts for the liana bindings which are often also attached 
to rocks or tree trunks protruding from the water. A firm rail 
prevents the traveller from being swept off his feet by the current. 

The simplest wooden bridge is naturally the felled trunk laid 
across a small brook, but when the river is broad magnificent 
timber structures are erected, with complicated spans balancing 
over forks and poles. In the Cameroons, in Melanesia, and in 
Colombia the intricate shapes of such structures are surprising in 
their symmetry and architectural beauty. 

Over land and water, over trail and bridge, thus travels man, to 
carry himself and his goods and provisions to his place of destina- 
tion. For mountain-climbing, walking canes are customary, but 
in regions where the great wood-carvers live, for instance in Africa 
and on Borneo, simple staffs soon assume more pretentious shapes 
and become insignia of rank or even expressions of magic powers. 

When it comes to the carrying of loads, there is no people on 
earth which does not know of some method to make burdens easier 



to handle. Head loads may be supported by woven rings or by 
stuffed pads, and the weight of the burden carried on the back may 

After Codex Mendoza 

be conveniently distributed over the entire body by the carrying 
strap, head-band, or tump-line. This carrying aid is especially 
typical of Asia and of the North and South American Indian tribes, 
but it also occurs in Africa. Mostly, the 
tump-line is attached to a basket supported 
on the back, or to a ladder-like structure 
such as the cacaxtli of the ancient Mexicans, 
whose head-band was called mecapalli. 

Burdens on the back are not necessarily 
lifeless the Asiatic and North American 
manner of carrying babies on the mother's 
back is comfortable for both. South 
American Indians often prefer to carry their 
babies in a broad woven band slung round 
the mother's shoulder, but they also use 
ladder-like frames into which the baby is 
laced during the mother's wanderings. The 
large amphoras of the Incas featured two 
special handles near the bottom, through CLAY VASE > SHOWING 
which strings could be slung to make it pos- 
sible to carry the huge vessels on the back, 
instead of in the customary manner on the 
head. But while in earlier cultures the 
human beast of burden is a general sight, since the carrying of heavy 
loads is the lot of all mortals, the feudalistic caste of the ancient 
high cultures look down upon their poorer brethren of the burden- 
carrying lower caste. Many a noble Singhalese wears curved combs 



After Bdssler 










Belgian Congo 

American Museum of Natural History, New York: (2) after drawings 
(3) after a photograph 

on his head to demonstrate that his people have never borne 
burdens on their heads. 

The simplest hand luggage is the carrying net 
known to very many peoples, especially in America ; 
leather bags are its equivalent in Africa and Asia. 
The braided and woven bags and baskets of all 
kinds, the conical burden baskets of Asia and 
America, and the square, stiffer African varieties, 
all serve the same purpose : to keep goods together 
and to facilitate their transport. 

The carrying beam or * coolie ' yoke is of very 
ancient origin. It consists of one long piece of 
strong wood balanced on the neck and counter- 
weighted by loads suspended at either end. Since 
the weights of these loads must be equal for the 
sake of balance this device is best suited for water- 
containers of identical shape and size or for identical bundles. Its 
classic place of origin is Asia, but the discoverers of South America 


Mexican Indians 

After Oviedo 


found it among the natives of some parts of that continent ; and 
Nordenskiold tells us of the sufferings of the Indians when the 
Spaniards forced them to carry loads on their back rather than on 
the yoke as they were accustomed to do. 

The beam, on which two or more men carry between them a 
suspended load, applies another technical principle and allows the 
easy handling of all kinds of heavy objects, from the carcasses of 
hunted animals and heavy signal drums to the bodies of the de- 
parted. This method of transportation is common in Africa, Asia, 
the South Seas, and some South American regions. 

The privilege of being carried about by one's fellow- men is 
enjoyed only by rulers, dignitaries, and persons whose sight is to 
be hidden from their surroundings for some 
reason or other. The litter in which such 
distinguished riders are carried was developed 
from the carrying beam. A settee or ham- 
mock is attached to two or four poles which 
are supported by the footmen. In Africa, 
where great stress is put on any device ac- 
centuating the dignity of the mighty, litters 
are still the favourite travelling ' coach ' of CHINE SE BAMBOO 
the chieftains, princes, and the mighty whites ; LITTER 

and in China it is the privilege of high officials After K. Weule 
to be carried about in this fashion. In the 
Chinese South it is the traditional mode of travelling for all who 
are entitled to higher standards of living. 

In another region of the world the caciques of the Chibcha were 
thus carried about in hammocks by their slaves. The reigning 
Inca of Peru was so ' holy ' that none of his subjects was allowed 
to see even his face. To protect his godlike countenance he 
travelled in a closed litter, preceded and followed by runners, who 
had to remove all obstacles from his way. The ' curtain before 
the throne/ which originated from the same conception, is a sacred 
tradition of Egypt, Abyssinia, and other African regions as far 
south as the Pangwe. This desire to hide the face of sacred or 
revered persons developed the litter into the sedan chair, a closed 
compartment carried in the ancient way. It was in common use 
from the times of the Babylonians and Egyptians to classic Rome, 
where especially the noblewomen travelled in this fashion. After 
the Crusades it penetrated the rest of the Occident, where it became 
fashionable during the seventeenth century as the porte-chaise. 

The motive power in all these cases is the human body and the 
weight of the burden falls most heavily on the foot. Although not 



. 8 

many primitives of the warm zones feel the necessity to protect 
their feet from the strain of walking, the desire to improve their 
speed or to make their footprints as indistinguishable as possible 
led to the invention of multiple kinds of primitive foot-gear. There 
is reasonableness in the view of the ancient explorer Mason who 
calls the shoes, sandals, and moccasins of 
primitive man the first actual means of trans- 
portation. Where the sand of the desert is 
too hot to be touched with naked soles, or 
where sharp stones would cause injuries, pro- 
tective f foot-gear is customary. For instance, 
the Indians of the torrid Roroima region manu- 
facture sandals from the leaves of the Mauritia 
palm. Perhaps the most ingenious variety of 
the primitive sandal is the sprinter's model of 
the South African Bushmen which protects their 
feet from the hot sand of the Kalahari and pre- 
vents them from sinking too deeply into the 
loose ground. Such sandals are part of the 
regular hunting outfit of those tribes whose 
members are able to pursue game by foot, 
chasing it incessantly for days without allowing 
the animal to rest or feed, until it breaks down 
from exhaustion. 
SKIS While the sandal improves the safety of the 

COVERED WITH human foot on the bare soil, creepers or skates 
REINDEER SKIN ma ke it possible to * run ' on the surface of the 
East Yaks ice. Since palaeolithic times Asia and Europe 
Museum of knew skates manufactured from bones. The 
Ethnology, Hamburg Edda, that ancient literary document of Nordic 
(after A. Byhari) Europe, mentions the ' ice bone/ from which, 
during the thirteenth century, Holland de- 
veloped wooden skates with iron blades. The all-metal skates of 
our days were designed in 1850 in America. Not unlike the 
ancient bone skate is the Eskimo creeper, carved from walrus 
tusks, which is tied to the boots when the hunter approaches his 
prey on the ice. 

To glide on the snow rather than on the ice is the^purpose of skis, 
whose prototypes were the * sliding woods ' of the Bronze Age. 
In the far north of Europe and Asia skis were developed into forms 
not unlike our present-day models, with the foot of the wearer 
resting on birch-bark platforms and the lower sides of the gliders 
covered with the skin of reindeer or seal. They are used with the 


additional aid of a pair of ski poles with bone points and small laced 
hoops at the ends. The skis of the Lapps are longer and broader 
than these early models, without fur coverings and in appearance 
much more like our modern skis whose development as sporting 
rather than hunting gadgets originated in the Norwegian hills of 
Telemark. The ski is not among the cultural possessions of the 
American primitives. 


Indians, Labrador 

Collection Julius E. Lips 

European Alps 
After G. Montandon 

Eskimo of Baffinland 
After F. Boas 

While the ski emphasizes the idea of speed, another arctic inven- 
tion, the snow-shoe, is dedicated to the purpose of walking safely 
over the deep snow. This foot-gear is of the greatest importance 
in all arctic regions of the world. Originating in Asia, the * snow- 
shoe culture ' reached America even before the Eskimos spread out 
over the northern sector of the continent, and its dissemination 
reaches as far as northern California. With it travelled the moccasin, 
that foot-gear of soft leather on which the foot of the hunter is 
anchored to the centre of the snow-shoe by lacings of leather strings. 
The arctic regions of the American continent have indeed become 
the classical centre of the snow-shoe ; the much cruder European 
models do not measure up to intricate American varieties. 

Among the hunters of the interior of Labrador the Naskapi are 
among the best-skilled craftsmen of snow-shoe manufacture. The 
wooden parts are carved by the men, but the lacing is women's 
work. It is fascinating to watch the manufacture of a pair of asham. 


For the frame, a stick of birchwood is softened in hot water and 
then bent over the knee into an arch. To force it into the right 
shape the two lower ends that later form the ' tail ' are firmly tied 
together with leather strings, while the centre is held open by a 
strut. The average length of a Naskapi snow-shoe is about three 
feet, the width at the broadest part about two feet. When the 
frame is dry enough cross-studs are attached to the frame, and rows 
of holes are punched into it with the bone drill. The lacing of 
moistened caribou-leather strings is run through the holes by the 
women in a regular pattern of firm interwoven meshes, with an 
exactness and care that result in finished products of perfection. 


Montagnais -Naskapi Indians, Labrador 
Collection Julius E. Lips 

Finally bands are attached to the centre in a series of intricate 
loops that hold the moccasin-clad foot of the wearer firmly in 

The hunter, thus equipped with snow-shoes, invented ages ago 
the oldest device with which to haul his weapons, his provisions, 
and his prey over snow and ice : the sledge. Its earliest use was 
probably preceded by dragging things on animal skins. Dragging 
home killed bear, moose, elk, or reindeer probably suggested the 
utilization of their skins for similar purposes of transport. But 
soon flat pieces of wood replaced this crude method, and the 
sledge was born. Neolithic findings, especially, prove its venerable 
age. In the arctic regions of Asia and Europe, particularly in 
Finland and in the regions where the Lapp hunters roam, we find 
its oldest form, either simply a piece of flat wood or a simple con- 
struction of several boards. The toboggan of northern Canada 
touches the ground with its entire flat bottom. To the Naskapi it 
is the indispensable winter vehicle for hauling burdens of all types 
over the snow : small children, bagged game, firewood, and the 
bodies of the departed on their way to the grave. The building 
material is birchwood split into boards of about fifteen feet in length 


and twelve to fifteen inches wide. The two principal boards for 
the base are held together by four cross-pieces ; the upward-bent 
front part is shaped with the aid of hot water, and supported by a 
fifth cross-piece. Holes are drilled, and all parts are held in place by 
firm lacings with caribou-leather strings. When the Indians leave 
for the summer places in their canoes they store their toboggans 
in the tops of the trees on their hunting grounds. 

Of a more complex form are the sledges equipped with runners 
used by the Eskimos and by some neighbouring Indian tribes, by 
the Samoyeds, the Gilyaks, and other peoples of arctic Asia. It 
may be assumed that the runner-type sledge, especially of the 
Eskimos, is a comparatively recent invention. Nordenskiold traced 
its origin to the Old World. The original type of Eskimo sledge is 
probably the runnerless model still used by the Caribou Eskimos. 
Among the Scandinavian peoples of Europe the so-called ' summer ' 
sledges transport timber over the sleek ground surfaces of their 
coniferous woods a method which was customary in Egypt for the 
hauling of heavy loads over sand and other smooth surfaces. 

A fully loaded sled or sledge constitutes a weight which can 
hardly be moved by the power of one man alone. It seems that 
since the dawn of time man had learnt to ease his burden by making 
use of the pulling power of his oldest domesticated animal com- 
panion, the dog. Dog teams pulled the sledges of prehistoric man 
as they pull the toboggans and other sledges in the arctic wilder- 
nesses of to-day. The dog's oldest pack companion was the 
reindeer, employed together with the elk in northern Europe and 
Asia as a beast of burden even in modern times. Reindeer were 
used for hauling before they were domesticated as dairy animals 
and mounts. 

This holds true also for the members of the cattle family, the 
yak of Tibet being the oldest domesticated species. The water- 
buffaloes of China were domesticated later. Yokes for cows or 
steers have been found in the habitations of the European Lake 
Dwellers, those early lovers of comfort. 

The horse, known in Europe in its wild form during the Palaeo- 
lithicum, was used for the moving of burdens since the Neolithic 
period. Harnesses for horses have been found in the remnants of 
the * band-ceramic ' period. During the third millennium B.C. the 
horse came from Asia over Asia Minor to Babylon, to reach Egypt 
towards the end of the Middle Empire. The North Africans, 
those master raisers of thoroughbreds, began their famed tradition 
in 2000 B.C. In America the horse was unknown in pre-Columbian 


In South America, long before the arrival of Columbus, the 
llama and the alpaca were the animal helpers of man as they still 
are. The range of Asiatic pack animals is wide indeed : dog, yak, 
horse, reindeer, camel, dromedary, zebu, elephant, ass, and even 
sheep pulled the vehicles of man from the dawn of time to our days. 
Not all peoples on earth, however, have learnt to make use of 
animal power for the purpose of moving their loads and burdens. 
Australia, the South Sea Islands, Japan, and entire Negrpid Africa 
originally knew no beasts of burden. 

The habit of riding animals is of a more recent date than their 
use for packing. However, ancient figures from the middle of the 
third millennium B.C. found at Kul-Tepe show human beings 
riding on the backs of animals, and the * horse-riding culture ' of 
Asia is an exceedingly ancient one. In later times the North 
American Indians of the plains, and South American tribes like 
those of the Chaco, who rode their horses on straw-padded leather 
saddles with bone splinters for spurs, took to the horse so completely 
that they practically lived on horseback. 

Among the tribes of the prairie, the horse replaced the dog which, 
in olden times, had pulled the travois, a structure of two poles on 
which a burden was tied, and which dragged on the ground behind 
the animal. The travois constitutes a very ancient method of 
moving bundles, tents, children, timber, and the like. Its Asiatic 
form, still in use by the Kirghiz, is pulled by a camel, which in 
addition to its burden also carries a rider. 

It is a far cry from the bumping, bulky travois to smoother 
means of transportation ; and real comfort and speed could only 
be attained by that supreme invention in the field of transportation, 
the wheel, which is a creation of the high cultures and unknown to 
primitive man. By reducing the size of the surface that touches 
the ground and by the first application of a moving circular support, 
the friction caused by the weight of the load could, by means of 
the wheel, be so minimized that big loads were transported with 
comparatively small effort. Heavy objects, formerly * immobile,' 
could now be moved by the power of man or by the power of the 
animals he trained for this purpose. 

The first archaeological evidences of the wheel date back to the 
Mesopotamian city cultures. It is assumed that the idea of rolling 
along a heavy object originated in the practice of sliding logs under 
the weight to be moved a technique the Egyptians applied when 
they moved the cut-stone squares used in the construction of the 
pyramids. The oldest wheels consisted merely of solid discs of 
wood, firmly joined to an axis that moved with the wheels. Later 

I40O B.C. 

The Gizeh Museum of 

Egyptian Antiquities, 



modifications resulted in the invention of the nave, or hub, and the 
hollowing of spaces in the centre. Gradually the intersections 
between the carvings became thinner and thinner, leading during 
the Bronze Age to the development of the spokes. Spoked wheels 
were known in Asia Minor as early as 
2700 B.C. 

While the cart for moving loads was a 
general means of transportation, the two- 
wheeled chariot was first depicted as a 
vehicle reserved only for the gods. When 
mortals began to appreciate its comforts it 
was reserved for the rulers, who later 
shared it with the wealthy. In classical 
times it was the. beloved vehicle of noble 
sports. The mythical significance of the 
wheel as a symbol of the sun, of the deity, 
and of good luck has made it a preferred ornament ; and the 
habit of celebrating the solstice by rolling burning wheels downhill 
or by throwing wooden discs into the air is a reminder of the 
manifold interpretations to which the wheel was connected with 
the supernatural/ 

The two-wheeled cart is older than the 
four-wheeled vehicle, while the one-wheeled 
push-cart or wheelbarrow, in China often 
equipped with a sail, is among the oldest 
of vehicles. In the Chinese South a one- 
wheeled litter facilitates the work of the 
carriers who merely steer and push it. In 
northern China the so-called * great wagon ' 
is used for long trips, with a tent-like struc- 
ture mounted on two wheels. It reminds 
one of the famous covered wagon of the 
American pioneers. 

In the wars of centuries ago the possession 
of wheeled vehicles was a decisive factor of strategy. To all 
students of classical literature the barricades formed by chariots and 
the wheeled Roman catapults and onagers are familiar conceptions 
that played important roles in ancient history. 

China is the place of origin of so many great and also quaint 
inventions that to many white travellers the Chinese ricksha is a 
* typically Oriental ' means of transportation. But to the Chinese 
it is yang ch'e, ' the foreign cart/ It is a modern American inven- 
tion, just one hundred years old. The Baptist missionary, Jonathan 

After M. Haberlandt 


Goble, who lived in Yokohama, devised it with the help of a 
Japanese carpenter when doctor's orders prescribed * gentle outdoor 
exercise ' for the missionary's ailing wife. A shrewd Frenchman 
who saw the vehicle realized its possibilities and introduced it to 
China in 1847, where it appealed so greatly to the old users of the 
litter and the sedan chair that it became the nucleus of a whole 
industry. To-day the cities of China are enlivened by about four 
hundred thousand rickshas that steer precariously among modern 
automobiles. However they are doomed, and will soon become a 
romantic thing of the past, because the government has come to 
the conclusion that the trade of ricksha-pulling * debases a man/ 
although this decree does not apply to the litters and sedan chairs 
sanctioned by tradition. 

The development of the classical chariots and wagons into more 
comfortable vehicles, from the ' surrey with the fringe on top ' to 
the modern automobile, was as rapid as most of the nineteenth- 
and twentieth- century technical changes. When we consider the 
thousands of years that the wheel has been in use and compare it 
with the history of the motor-driven car, which began at the end 
of the last century, we may well wonder what future type of 
vehicles will make use of the wheel. 

While paths cleared the jungle for the travels of man, and bridges 
spanned the abyss and the river, human ingenuity did not stop 
at the waterways. Wherever the waterways of nature indicated 
a direction desirable to follow, man floated on them in his 

The simple trunk floating down a river furnished the oldest 
means of travelling on water. The primitive method can still be 
observed along the waterways in the interior of New Guinea. 
When the vessel of the explorer, Fintsch, approached the island the 
natives paddled round his ship, riding trunks and even the roots of 
trees in a most skilful fashion. From the floating pieces of lumber, 
then, the dug-out or monoxylon gradually developed. Its world- 
wide distribution makes it a universal type of early transportation 
on the waterways. 

From Australia to the Pacific Islands, from the Sudan to the 
arctic regions of Asia and Europe, the dug-out (whose hollow part 
is often burnt out) is known to many primitive travellers of the world. 
It was the only boat of the South American nomads before 
Columbus ; they ventured out to sea in their monoxylas, which were 
often as long as sixty feet. The Guato and the Payagua of the Chako 
stake their dug-outs along the banks of rivers with long, lancet- 
shaped oars, different in form from the short crook-handled paddles 




New Guinea 

After K. Weule 

of the tropical forest regions. The piragua of the upper Xingu 
features a wooden plank or board. 

In North America the Indians of the south-east coast of Alaska 
distinguish their dug-outs by finer workmanship and decorate them 
with fancy carvings. Krieger, 
who stresses " the fondness of 
the coast Indians for working 
in wood/' which " becomes 
almost an obsession with 
them," describes their long 
dug-out canoes (which are 
hollowed from a single cedar 
trunk) as " constructed with a 
high ornamental prow and 
stern, shaped from separate 
slabs of cedar wood. Each 
has carved representations of 
mythical and realistic animal 
forms as totemistic and ornamental embellishments. Some of these 
boats were formerly fitted with sails of cedar-bark matting and 
are from forty to sixty feet in length. They have no rudder, but 
are steered with a stern paddle. Natives of Sitka, on Baranoff 
Island, are known to have sailed as far as Port Simpson on the 
Skeena, more than three hundred miles distant." These boats 

have a capacity of fifty 



Some African dug-outs, 
especially of the Cameroons, 
are also richly decorated with 
carved ornaments, while those 
of the Sudan are more crude. 
The East African fishermen of 
Lake Tanganyika have their 

individual dug-outs. If the chosen tree is too tall it is chopped 
off ; if too short, its submerged trunk is dug from the soil. 
When roots, branches, and bark are removed the trunk is hollowed 
out with an axe and with the help of the iesso, the common tool. 
Two thick, square boards are left in the trunk to serve as a foot-rest. 
The White Fathers who furnish this description remark that often 
crooked trees are worked into canoes and that some of the dug-outs 
look as if " they could not go straight," although they do, of course. 
They may serve for eight years or longer, and are trimmed with 
good-luck charms. A ceremony of magic inaugurates the use of a 




new dug-out. It includes an appeal to the ancestors and a series 
of hearty epithets directed against all who should threaten the new 
boat by their evil intentions, be they human beings or ghosts. 

The dug-outs of northern Eurasia are probably an importation 
and not a legacy of prehistoric times. The swamps of Finland and 
northern Russia, otherwise so rich in cultural remnants of the 
oldest periods, have not yielded a single specimen. In Estonia the 

dug-out is still built by the vil- 
lage population and known as 
Lddnemaa. Middendorf observed 
them on the lower currents of 
the Siberian rivers which empty 
into the Arctic Sea, and noted 
that they were manufactured 
" south of the Polar Circle from 
whence they are transported to 
the peoples of the North Lands/' 
Perhaps of the same age as or 
even older than the dug-outs are 
the roughly constructed bark 
boats. The Fuegian Yamana and 
their neighbours (except the 
Selk'nam) build them from three 
pieces of bark, crudely sewn 
together with whale barbels. 
They are always navigated by a 
woman, who holds a simple 
paddle in both hands while her 

husband hovers at the bow, holding his harpoon or spear in 
readiness. The children are kept busy not only taking care of 
the fire which burns in the middle of the boat, but with the 
continuous bailing of water. 

Some African tribes who build equally fragile bark boats, like the 
Negroes of Central and Eastern Sudan, use another type of ancient 
watercraft, the raft. These rafts are bundles of papyrus shafts 
tied together, or piles of ambash (Herminiera elaphroxylori) wood ; 
both types are familiar sights in the Upper Nile region. Their 
South American equivalent is the balsa of Lake Titicaca. In India 
rafts appear along the Coromandel coast, and they are a favourite 
means of water transportation of the Californian tribes of North 
America. The Kamia build them fifteen feet long, composed of 
twelve to fourteen bundles of tule, and capable of carrying seven 
persons. The Tubatulabal tule rafts are only about half that 

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia 


length, square on both ends, and without sides. They require two 
men when used for spearing fish. 

A curious variety of the raft is the corita or pitch-cemented woven 
basket of the Lower Colorado which serves as a ferry. Equally 
strange is the huge, round clay vessel of the natives of Assam which 
carries its passengers safely over short distances. 

Another very ancient method of water transportation employs 
sewn animal skins, either filled with air or fitted over a structure 
of bone or wood. Inflated animal 
skins floated along the rivers of 
Mesopotamia, Nubia, India, and 
Babylon. The bull-boat of the 
Prairie Indians was a round vessel 
of buffalo hide, stretched over a 
frame of elastic wood. It had the 
appearance of an open, turned- 
over umbrella. The South 
American pelota of steer hide is 
a comparatively recent importa- 
tion, introduced by the Gauchos 
among the Abipones and in the 

The huge skin boat of northern RAFT OF INFLATED ANIMAL SKIN 
Asia, with its sails woven from Northern India 

entrails and its floaters of seal After K. Weule 

hides, was, with variations, in wide 

use throughout prehistoric Europe. It has its late counterparts 
in the skin-covered vessels of the Lapps. The skin boats of the 
Eskimos and other present-day arctic peoples are the kayaks and 
umiaks. A kayak is usually occupied by a single hunter, although 
the natives of southern Alaska and of the Aleutian Islands devise 
two- or three-seated models. A frame of driftwood holds the 
structure together. This is covered over with sewn sealskins, with 
only one narrow, round opening for the occupant, who is protected 
from water by clothing made of skins. A fixed tray and some 
bands to hold his harpoon and harpoon-line in place, besides a 
paddle of one or two blades, are about the only equipment the 
hunter can take along in this extremely light and navigable craft. 
The umiak is an open boat, also consisting of a large wooden frame 
and covered with skin. It is younger than the kayak, and probably 
originated in north-eastern Asia. In Greenland the umiak is 
merely used for transport, not for the hunt, and is known as the 
' women's boat/ 


A very efficient water-craft is the birch-bark canoe of the sub- 
arctic hunters and related tribes (not to be confused with the rattling 
bark vessels of the Fuegians, to which it is far superior). The 
Indians tailor it from one piece of the bark of the Canadian canoe 
or * paper ' birch (Betulapapyrifera). t Tailored ' is an appropriate 
description, because only a very skilful and experienced cutter is 
able to fashion such a craft without the aid of metal tools or the 
white man's iron nails. 

After a suitable tree has been chosen two deep circular incisions 
near its crown and roots are made with the beaver-tooth axe, 
followed by a straight vertical cut and the careful peeling off of the 
bark. While the man is busy with this work his wife collects long 
strands of spruce root from the ground. After removing the black 
bark she splits the white roots into long, flexible strips which are 
boiled and left in water in order to retain the flexibility necessary 
for their use as ' sewing thread/ As soon as all materials have been 
assembled the canoe builder prepares the * bed/ or building place, 
of the canoe. The ground on this spot must be firm, solid, yet 
slightly sandy. The bark, its weather side facing the soil, is laid 
on this ' bed,' then is bent upward over a bottom frame of cedar- 
wood. Another frame of two long, curved sticks encloses the bark 
from the outside. 

As soon as the inner frame has been firmly set a load of heavy 
stones is heaped inside to stretch and weigh down the bark. The 
overlapping parts are cut away, and the ' tailoring ' is finished. 
The next phase of the work, the sewing together of the tailored 
parts, is women's work. Holes are drilled with caribou bones at 
regularly spaced intervals in the bark, and are run through with 
stitches of spruce root. When all parts are thus sewn together with 
neat, identical stitches the gunwale is built into the body of the 
canoe, which is still, at this point, filled with stones. The shape 
of the vessel is now secured, and the stones may be safely removed. 
The next step is gluing the seams with a mixture of boiled spruce 
resin. The women now withdraw. The men take over again, and 
fit the entire inner body of the canoe with ingeniously cut ribs of 
cedar wood, both crosswise and lengthwise, which give the canoe its 
final and typical shape of a round-bottomed, smartly symmetrical 

This canoe, together with the toboggan, is about the most 
important possession of any Indian family. Many families possess 
three or more of them to move from the big lakes of the summer 
camps to the wilderness of the hunting grounds where the all- 
important furs are sought. The canoe carries them back in the 



spring on the narrow streams, the ' streets ' of the wild woods of 
the interior of Labrador. 


CANOE Madura Strait, Indonesia 

Montagnais-Naskapi Indians After Pritchelt 


Collection Julius E. Lips 

Only one who has seen the artistry, "the care, and perfect work- 
manship applied in the manufacture of these vessels can imagine 

Solomon Islands 
After Hambruch 

the beauty of such a boat. The slowly paddled birch-bark canoes 
on the immense lakes of Canada are a proud sight. 

About the most famous vessels built by primitive man are the 
canoes of the South Seas with their special feature, the single or 
double outrigger. They represent the highest technical achieve- 
ment reached in primitive boat-building. 




Although the mon canoes of the Solomon Islands are without 
outriggers, the characteristic models of the other islands generally 
possess the outrigger defined by Haddon as " a balancing apparatus 
that extends traversely across the hull of the canoe." In the great 
travelling boats of Polynesia the second outrigger is often 
replaced by a second canoe attached to the first a form 
which had its origin in Indonesia. The smaller, ' second ' 
boats often carry completely furnished little huts in which 
coconuts, fishing tools, water in calabashes, arid hearths 
with burning fires are kept for the comfort of the travel- 
lers. The larger boats are equipped with sails of mats 
woven from pandanus leaves swallow-tailed in shape in 
South-east New Guinea and the Santa Cruz Islands, 
triangular in Micronesia and Polynesia, square or elliptic 
in Melanesia, the last type sometimes being attached to 
single or double masts. Large stones or stone-filled baskets 
serve as anchors ; rudders hang in a sling on the stern. 

The natives of these islands have developed a consider- 
able skill at navigation, and have regular nautical maps 
which they use to determine the direction of their travels. 
Thoroughly familiar with the currents and tides and, 
especially, with the location of the stars, they steer safely 
through the sea. Regular navigation schools exist on the 
Caroline Islands of Mogemog, Uleai, Poluat, and on 
Jaluit and Arno of the Marshalls. The Polar Star marks 
the north, the Southern Cross the south, and the east-west 
direction is determined by a multitude of other known 
and named stars, as Hambruch has shown in his studies 
on South Sea navigation. 

On land and sea primitive man has thus found ways to 
travel and to move about, making free use of all the facili- 
Museum of ties provided by nature. We consider ourselves masters 
Ethnology, ' ^ roac [ s an ^ o f the rivers and oceans when we board 
oogne j our twentieth-century giants of transportation, but we 
must also consider that, unlike the man in the wilderness who 
builds and directs his vehicles, we are not individually masters 
of the ability to transport ourselves and our possessions. 

Only since the beginnings of the air age have the ancient roads 
of land and water lost their significance to any considerable degree. 
Flying through the skies, we have found the miraculous magic 
carpet about which the travellers of the jungle could only dream. 




Wall Street in the Jungle 

IN TIMES OF FINANCIAL CRISES, whether runaway inflation or 
deflation, we tend to lose faith in that magic medium known as 
money. At such times we harassed victims of civilization occa- 
sionally like to think about some remote, exotic island with its 

American Museum of Natural History y New York 

idyllic and simpler form of society as the ideal haven of economic 
security, unaware of the fact that the unsophisticated children of 
nature have worries not unlike our own. Fundamentally the 
difference between a dollar bill and, for instance, a cowrie shell is 
merely one of appearance. The man on Broadway who pays a bill 
by cheque is doing neither more nor less than an Indian of the 
Hupa tribe who fumbles in his leather pouch and produces the head 





' PURSE ' 

Hupa Indians 

Museum of Ethnology, Berlin 

of a red woodpecker in payment. The shape of coins may be 
different all over the world, but the worries that go with them are 
the same. 

The most widely distributed money of primitive peoples comes 

from snails and shells. The thick- 
edged porcelain shell of the cowrie 
snail has been used as a medium of 
exchange for centuries in the remote 
regions of the globe. The snails are 
caught by the simple device of throwing 
cocoa leaves into the water and collect- 
ing them after the mollusca have settled 
on them. Merchants of all nationalities 
deal in this primitive coin a trade 
which extends to China, Japan, and the 
East Indies. Its main places of origin 
are the Maldivian Islands, south-west 
of India proper, and the East African 
island of Mafia. The thirteenth- 
century traveller, Marco Polo, noted 
ftie use of cowrie coins in the Chinese 
province of Toloman. " These were 

porcelain snails," he wrote, " such as were formerly used on dog 
collars. " 

In time, the high cultures chose other mediums of exchange. 
China replaced its cowries with silver and copper ; Tibet with 
silver. In Africa, however, the use of the cowrie-shell money is 
still common, its value increasing with 
the distance of the tribal land from the 
coast. In the interior everything is 
paid for in cowrie. Even the white 
missionaries collect contributions in 
it. Among the Buboka, an axe costs 
one hundred and fifty cowries, a 

piece of Indian cotton has a value of six hundred cowries, and to 
buy two cakes of European soap or a package of dried grasshoppers 
you need one hundred cowries. The price of a bride among the 
Bassari is fifteen thousand cowrie shells plus one cow an expensive 
luxury for any prospective bridegroom. A fetish, artistically 
modelled from clay, brings three hundred cowries, the equivalent of 
about five cents. Relics and grave-stones, taxes and fines, are all 
paid for in cowries, and one can become bankrupt in terms of 
cowrie as easily as in dollars or pounds. 



Another snail, Dentalium edulis, was used by the old Indians 
between Alaska and Puget Sound. It was dug by the women from 
the banks of the Vancouver River and valued on account of its 
brilliant white colour and its symmetrical shape, resembling a 
miniature elephant's tusk. The South Sea Islanders hardly ever 
deal in cowrie or dentalium. Not satisfied with mere shells pro- 
duced by nature, they fashion the shells into ' money/ which, 
threaded on strings, is handled with all the respect due to the 
authorized product of their * mints/ 

By far the most prominent Melanesian currency is the famous 
nassa money, also known as diwarra, or tambu. It needs special 
craftsmanship for its preparation. Its manufacture is a privilege of 
chieftains ; no woman may take part in it. Diwarra is made from 
a half-inch sea snail with a camePs-hump-shaped shell, known to 
zoologists as Nassa camelus. The natives along the coast of 
Nakanai, where the shell is found, collect the precious snails with 
nets from the bottom of the sea and store them in their huts, 
regardless of the offensive odour caused by the decay of the animal 

As soon as the south-western monsoon season is over many 
expeditions in outrigger boats set out -from the Gazelle Peninsula, 
from the Bay of Talili, and from neighbouring islands, to catch the 
palatambu, as the natives call the unprepared shell. This entire 
enterprise is accompanied by ceremonial splendour, because 
diwarra, or tambu y is caught and prepared with religious devotion. 
The first wish welcoming a new-born boy is : " May you become 
a great and strong man, so that you may travel to Nakanai many 
times to get plenty of tambu" This trip takes about a month. 

For all natives of this region tambu is their most cherished pro- 
perty, more valuable than life and health. Tambu is * great and 
holy/ as its name indicates. Its possession even buys immortality, 
because only the wealthy after death go to Nakanai, the holy tambu 

To cut the tambu out of the raw shell the natives press it into 
the hole of a coconut and cut off its * camel's hump/ with the sharp 
edge of a shell tool. After the hole has been punched the shell is 
thoroughly cleaned. To give it the desired white appearance, it is 
submitted to an intricate bleaching process. Finally the tambu 
is strung, first on strips of bark to remove the last yellow hues 
discolouring some of the shells, and later on liana tendrils. 

No one would dream of keeping more * cash ' in his hut than 
absolutely necessary. The rest of an individual's fortune is kept 
in the People's Bank or community tambu house, hidden in the 


bush and protected by constant watch. The money strings are 
tied together in rings often as large as a wagon wheel, wrapped in 
pandanus leaves, and bound all round with rotang cord. One such 
ring may contain five hundred fathoms of diwarra. It has the 
appearance of a heavy tyre. 

Not unlike the money-worshippers of the civilized world who 

' Bakiau ' and ' Sapisapi ' 
South-east New Guinea 


Gazelle Peninsula New Guinea 

After H. Petri 

love to count and re-count their bank balances, the natives sit in 
their huts, measuring their tambu strings and experiencing all the 
genuine joys of wealth before they entrust their fortune to the bank. 

So important is the role diwarra plays among these islanders that 
there is hardly any function of their daily lives in which it is not 
needed. Everything can be bought or sold in diwarra even 
children, whose price is about equal to that of a bride : ten to fifty 
strings. Wives are constantly urged to work to enable their 
husbands to cash in as much diwarra as possible, thereby increasing 
the husband's power and influence. 

In times of war the precious tambu strings are buried. The 
great tycoon who owns the largest amount of money strings is called 


a luluai or patium, meaning ' chieftain ' or ' big boss.' Those who 
have but little tambu are luweans, or ' poor devils.' 

Even immaterial values can be measured in diwarra. There is 
no wrong which cannot be repaired by a diwarra payment. For 
adultery, three to five strings are sufficient ; murder requires about 
fifty strings ; theft, twenty. Even the greatest, almost irreparable 
crime the theft of diwarra can be atoned for with a set payment. 
Secret societies occasionally misuse the religious conceptions of the 
natives for the sake of the beloved diwarra^ mulcting some naive 
soul of it under the guise of mystical representations. In time of 
war the chieftain who wishes to engage the service of allies has to 
pay generously in diwarra. This emphasis on money is unequalled 
in the civilized world. 

Another type of shell money is obtained by making thousands of 
individual shell disks which are tied together and strung, often to 
a length of many yards. The Indians of California used this kind 
of money to purchase brides or to pay for adoptions, funerals, 
games, and even peace agreements. Like the South Sea Islanders, 
the Indians measure all such strings by measurements of the human 
body, from finger-tip to elbow, from papilla to papilla, from shoulder 
to shoulder, etc. The American wampum was made of disks from 
white and purple quahaug shells. Woven into belts, it also served 
as a legal document for the conclusion of treaties. 

In contrast to the * holy ' diwarra money, shell disks are manu- 
factured mainly by women. Not the material, but the artificially 

* coined ' shape give these disks their monetary value. Famous 

* mints ' are located on the Solomon Islands, on islands of the 
Bougainville Straits, on the Banks Islands, and elsewhere. Many 
tribes of the Gazelle Peninsula, where such strings are termed pele, 
trade them for nassa shells. Along the Buin Coast of Bougainville 
ten to twenty fathoms of shell- disk money buy, according to 
Thurdwald, a pig or a widow ; murder costs one hundred to one 
hundred and twenty fathoms ; and a young girl may have a 
value of up to a hundred and fifty fathoms. 

The disks may be white, black, purple, or red, the latter especially 
on Ponape. Great shells are broken into smaller sections which 
are pressed into a wooden board and polished with a stone on both 
sidles. After their perforation with a primitive drill the disks are 
strung on hibiscus fibres, and their rims are carefully filed down 
with pumice stone to make them of standard circumferences. 

On Truk and Mortlock the tiny disks are occasionally fashioned 
from fruit shells. The Mariana Islanders make money strings of 
thin tortoise-shell disks. 



New Ireland 

Museum of 
Ethnology, Cologne 

That shell-disk money belongs to the oldest mediums of exchange 
is evidenced by findings in prehistoric graves in which whole 
' fortunes,' buried with the deceased, have been 

A combination of shell disks and other 
objects regarded as valuable by the natives 
is the so-called * pig-money/ frequently used 
on New Ireland. It consists of up to twenty 
thousand individual disks, strung together with 
glass beads, woven intermediate pieces of rotang 
strips, and dog teeth. Its lower end is always 
decorated with one or more pigtails. This 
money is used for the purchase of pigs and of 
women, but for the latter, two strings of dog 
teeth have to be added. 

One such piece of nearly thirteen yards' 
length consisted, according to Petri, of a long 
string of black and white shell disks with larger 
fruit-shell disks at regular intervals. This was 
followed by a woven square of orange and black 
dyed rotang strips, its corners trimmed with 
shell disks and pigtails. The rest of the money 
string was made up of a long section of white shell disks, two 
parallel strings of shell disks horizontally arranged, another string 
of white and orange shell disks with coco- 
nut pearls, four dog fangs, a further long 
string of white disks, and eight white shell 
strings in parallel rows. A mother-of- 
pearl shell and three pigtails dangled 
from its lower end. 

Other varieties of shell money are the 
valuable arm rings, fashioned in Micro- 
nesia mainly from the Conns millepunc- 
tatus shell and in Melanesia from Tridacna 
gigas. Petri describes their purchasing 
value as twenty tridacna rings for a hut 
or a canoe. The natives of Tumleo buy 
a quantity of sago or a large yellow bird 
of paradise with one ring ; two such rings 
pay for a watch-dog, ten for a pig. The most valuable specimens 
are the yellow-spotted shell rings. They are cut from the large 
shells with a saw-like tool which consists of a wooden bow strung 
with a piece of bast. On the western and central Caroline Islands, 



Island Yap 

After K. Weule 


2O I 


New Guinea 
After K. Weule 

especially on Ponape, these rings are fashioned from the conus 
shell. Similar pieces were used in prehistoric times. 

Mother-of-pearl shells are another widespread * coin/ especially 
in the Caroline Islands, where they are known by the name of jar. 
They are cut in the shape of a spade, 
punched, and tied to a cocoa string. On 
the island of Yap only women are allowed 
to use jar as currency. Consequently the 
natives term it * women 's money.' The 
men of Yap deal in a completely different 
1 coin ' which belongs to another type of 
currency stone money. 

The famous coins of Yap, called fei, 
are gigantic wheels of aragonite, a sort of 
limestone found on the islands of Pelew. 

To collect these stones the men of Yap have to make a trip of several 
hundred miles. Just as in the case of the diwarra, this type of 
currency does not serve as money in the territory where it is found, 
but is used by tribes living far away. With great difficulty the 
aragonite is cut from the rock without the help of any metal tools, 

and transported to Yap on rafts towed by 

This money is of enormous size, round 
and flat, with a drilled hole in the middle, 
somewhat like a millstone only much 
thinner. Its value increases in propor- 
tion to its size and its thinness. Fei may 
be up to five yards in diameter, and 
probably constitutes the largest coin in 
the world. Its value is measured by the 
spread of the hand. In the year 1900 a 
fei measuring three spans in diameter 
bought a bag of copra or about ten 
dollars' worth of merchandise. A large- 
sized fei is worth a woman, a canoe, a 
pig, and a great variety and quantity of 

Naturally, the unusual size of this currency causes considerable 
difficulties in everyday trading. For this reason the fei money is 
lined up in front of a man's home. Selling goods to another man 
living far away, the merchant merely inspects the appearance and 
position of his customer's fei. He does not take actual possession 
of each stone wheel, and may own feis spread all over the island. 




Solomon Islands 

After H. Petri 



\> \v\ 

When a native of Yap has to pay taxes or fines the white admini- 
strators simply mark some of his feis with the initials of the district 
officer. If the coin happens to change hands again the initials are 
erased. Neolithic findings in China and Indo-China show that 
this currency is also of very ancient origin. 

Marble rings are used as money on the island of Isabel and on 
the New Hebrides. Native head-hunters value them as the 
equivalent of one human head, a ' very good ' pig, or a rpedium- 

sized young man. In the southern 
regions of New Guinea the blades 
of ceremonial hatchets fashioned 
from volcanic stone are a recog- 
nized currency. From the ' mint ' 
on Murua they are traded west- 
ward to the Papua Gulf. Pigs, food, 
canoes, and land are paid for with 
this money, and they are the witch 
doctor's fee for successful * magical ' 

The most valuable stone currency 
in white men's eyes is, of course, 
such * coins ' as consist of precious 
or semi-precious stones. On ac- 
count of their scarcity, such stones 
pass more often as valuables than as 
everyday currency , although they 
are used as money in many places. 

In ancient China the jadeite was used as a coin. To-day the 
natives of Borneo use agate as money. So do the natives of 
Uchichi, who add jasper to their currency. The Caribbeans 
bought slaves with nephrite ; and in Kordofan, Darfur, and India 
pearls even to-day are legal coins. 

In 1624 the explorer Braun spoke of * mystical aggri' pearls' 
which he encountered in the highlands of * Ambosy ' (Cameroons). 
The natives called them abug, and would sell even human beings 
for two or three handfuls of them. According to a native legend, 
these aggri pearls were mined in the land of Bonyse, but the mine 
shaft caved in. This explains their great value. Only the chief- 
tains and their wives were allowed to possess aggri money. 

Glass beads have been carried all over the globe by explorers and 
traders to buy native goods. In some places these beads are so 
firmly established as coinage that price fluctuations take place 
according to fashion trends and changes of taste. Behold the 

Island Yap 


South American Indian who invested his whole fortune in old- 
fashioned blue beads instead of in the modern red ones ! His 
former fortune is just as worthless as some stock shares were during 
the depression of the 1930*3. 

In Africa the use of beads for money is so widespread and so 
subject to changing trends that numerous attempts have been 
made to ' stabilize ' certain varieties. Yet these attempts have 
encountered unsurpassable difficulties, in view of the continuous 
imports of tempting novelties. King Soona of Uganda attempted 
to emancipate himself from European imports by planting beads in 
the hope of getting a large crop, but sadly enough his attempts came 
to naught. Along the Croo coast glass-bead money is in circulation 
which, according to the natives, was mined by their ancestors in 
the bush and which they thought * grew ' in the soil. 

On the Pelews the islanders cherish a ' holy ' earth and mineral 
money called audouth. Since it is very scarce they hoard it care- 
fully. Sixty years ago its best specimens were valued by white 
traders at about four thousand dollars a piece, which explains the 
fact that these coins are never in circulation and are seldom shown 
to anybody. Petri states that this money has executed " a decisive 
influence upon the entire tribal life "*of the natives. 

A more important medium of exchange is the tooth coin. It 
usually consists of rare animal teeth. Many of these coins are 
teeth artificially retarded in their growth. The tusk of the wild 
boar is a strange coin of this type. To attain its highest value, it 
must be grown in a ring-like shape. To produce this ' ideal ' form, 
the upper tusks of young boars are pulled out. This causes the 
lower ones to grow with their points turning downward, and within 
a few years the desired circle is attained. This money is especially 
appreciated by the Papua, who wear the rings on their arms. 

Much wider is the area of distribution of dog-tooth money, 
which is found not only on New Guinea, but also in the Bismarck 
Archipelago and on the Solomons. Only the four fangs of a dog 
are used for money. Arranged in three parallel strings, dog fangs 
pay for a pig, for food, and for pottery. A woman or a young man 
has a value of a hundred dog teeth. On New Guinea this money 
is an important means of intertribal commerce. Schmidt reports 
that the Nor-Papuans manufacture bracelets which they exchange 
for tobacco at Dallmann Harbour. They then trade these goods in 
Kis for dog teeth. In Vatam they buy with them the valuable red 
earth, which they exchange in Vaskulin for sago and pouches. 
These goods, in turn, are exchanged for pottery, and finally for 
large dog-tooth chains. 




Santa Cruz 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

Kangaroo and opossum teeth are other ' coins ' of the New 
Guineans, while North Bougainville and other places favour reki, 

or bat teeth, and batu, the teeth of 
the dolphin. Dolphin teeth are 
also in circulation at San Cristo- 
bal and at Malanta. The Banks 
Islanders prefer boar money, and 
the Fiji and Gilbert tribes manu- 
facture coins from the teeth of the 
sperm whale. A good example of 
the relative value of tooth money 
has been reported by a European 
explorer to whom the African 
tribe of the Hausa offered a ton of 
ivory for some cotton cloth worth 
less than fifty cents. 
* Zoological ' money is, however, by no means limited to tooth 
money. Feather money is extensively used. The natives of Santa 
Cruz use small pieces of it, consisting of a woven 
band, as ' small change/ Substantial wealth is 
expressed by the possession of large rolls of 
feathers arranged in shingle-like fashion. Such 
a roll may contain two thousand individual 
feather ' shingles/ Its value is, according to 
Speiser, that of two big pigs or a girl. 

The rolls are carefully kept in tapa wrappings, 
hung up over the fireplace to protect them against 
insects, and are proudly displayed to any visitor. 
Handed down through generations, these rolls 
lose their value when the red feathers they con- 
tain are worn out. Wealthy people erect their 
own ' bank vaults ' in the bush for the safe- 
keeping of their treasures, and occasionally the 
fortune of the tribe is displayed publicly on 
bamboo posts. Hundreds of birds must be 
killed to furnish enough feathers for these rolls, 
hence their high value. Pigeons and humming- 
birds contribute their feathers to this money, as Ethnology, Cologne 
well as chickens, but in the latter case only the 
fine feathers that grow round their eyes are chosen. The fabrica- 
tion of this money is women's work. On the Banks Islands small 
red feathers are tied together in bundles or woven into necklaces ; 
sometimes white feathers are added to set off the red ones more 


Banks Islands 
Museum of 



effectively. On Santa Cruz this money is occasionally woven into 


In Polynesia feather money and feather jewellery have reached 

their greatest perfection. Cook found, 

in 1777, that yellow and red parrot 

feathers were valuable coins. Images 

of the gods are trimmed with feathers 

by these islanders, and their famous 

chieftains' coats, containing thousands of 

artfully interwoven feathers, are among 

the most treasured possessions of many a 

white man's museum. 

On the Willaumez and French Islands 

the feathers and thigh-bones of the casso- 
wary are used as money. The high 

esteem for this type of currency is due 

to the fact that the cassowary does not 

live on these islands. 

North Assam knows * skull money ' 

derived from butchered cows, and the 

head - hunters of Borneo used human 

skulls as a medium of wealth. 

Among the strangest yet most widely 

distributed moneys on earth is the edible 

* coin/ Of course the tribes who use it make sure that 

coins consist of products which are practically imperishable. 

Salt is a recognized currency in most parts of Africa, often in the 

form of loaves or bricks of stone salt. To it the Pangwe add 

kank y a roll of boiled cassava mush. No 
health department stops the natives of 
Nias from circulating dried pork as cur- 
rency. In ancient Mexico the smallest 
currency consisted of cocoa beans, which 
even to-day circulate as money in re- 
mote places. Brick tea ' money ' enjoys 
an unusually extensive circulation in many 
Chinese provinces. It is made of tea- 
leaves, pressed into loaves the size of a brick. 

Units of rice are often used as small coin, especially on Sumatra 

and by the Igorot. Salaries and taxes even to-day are paid in rice 

in many Asiatic regions. In the East Indies tapioca coins were 

known. On the Nicobar Islands pairs of small nuts are currency ; 

Tibet prefers walnuts. Other vegetal currencies are dried banana 




Central Asia 

After K. Weule 



After K. Weule 


peels and pieces of curcuma root, found on the Caroline Islands. 
Lapland uses even nowadays its ancient cheese money. 

Stimulants also are used as currency. Nias and Eastern Siberian 
natives use tobacco leaves in this way. In West Africa white 
merchants pay with trade tobacco, one tobacco leaf being the 
smallest ' change/ Albert Schweitzer reports from Lambarene 
that one tobacco leaf pays for two pineapples and that all smaller 
services are paid for in tobacco leaves. Seven of them make a * head 
of tobacco,' worth seven French francs. Some of Schweitzer's 
instructions to travellers in Africa are : 

If you want to buy food, don't take money along, but tobacco. 
If you want to avoid robberies, sit down on the precious box 
during the boat trips. On the water, the pipe goes from mouth 
to mouth. If you want to travel comfortably, promise each hand 
on deck two leaves of tobacco, and you will reach your destination 
one or two hours earlier than anybody else who offers white man's 

More dangerous is a currency circulating in a Chinese province 
of Hainan opium. Equally dangerous is the use of brandy money 
along the Loango coast, where it is passed in glasses or bottles as 
small or larger payment. During the rainy season an egg costs 
half a glass of rum, while the price is raised to a full glass during 
the dry season. A goat costs three bottles of rum and a piece of 
cotton cloth. The Ainu tribesmen pay with rice brandy which 
they receive from Japan. This alcoholic money is very dangerous, 
as it is likely to tempt its owner to become intoxicated with his 
wealth in the truest sense of the word. 

With the development of the rubber trade many primitive tribes 
acknowledged rubber balls as means of exchange. In Togo they 
occasionally replaced even the traditional cowrie coins. 

Closest to the white man's conception of money are the metal 
currencies which are used in addition to the other varieties, 
particularly in Africa. Especially in places where different cultures 
came into contact with each other, a variety of currency has been 
the rule. These metal moneys do not have the shape of coins in 
our sense, but appear often in the form of tools and weapons. 

The region of Tabora in East Africa is known to the natives as 
Unyanyembe (Land of the Hoe), so called after the one hundred and 
fifty thousand iron hoes (yembe) delivered there sixty years ago by 
the natives of Ussindja and used as monetary units. Spears, knives, 
and white man's guns have been added as currency. In 1906 the 
Pangwe established stabilized prices for all major objects of their 


trade, but although they adopted iron-spear money as their standard 
currency, other coinages were equally recognized, due to the infusion 
of various cultural and economic elements from other forms of 
civilization. This makes it possible to translate native values into 
equivalent amounts of English money. 

A Pangwe bridegroom in quest of marital happiness, for instance, 
must make the following payments for his bride : 

s. d. 

6000 spears 20 o o 

12 guns 600 
2 barrels of powder 4 o 
70 boar tusks 300 
2 sheep 2 10 o 
2 iron pots 10 o 
10 pieces of cloth 200 
5 hats 12 6 

13 pots of salt i o o 
2 knives 2 o 
2 packages of beads 2 o 
2 tobacco pipes i o 
2 packages of flint i o 
i hat full of buttons * i o 

Total 36 3 6 

As we can see, the price for a Pangwe bride is a considerable 
amount, which often condemns many young Pangwe men to life- 
long bachelorhood. 

For their metal money the African natives never depended on 
imports from Europe, since the process of producing iron by 
melting it in furnaces was known to them long before the white 
man had acquired that knowledge. 

The favourite shape of iron money in the form of familiar tools 
often leads to their reproduction in miniature. The old iron money 
of the Pangwe, for instance, has the form of diminutive axes, tied 
together with fibre strings in fan-like fashion. Ten such bundles 
are worth about a quarter of a dollar. This money, however, is 
now scarce. Present-day Pangwe currency is made from spear- 
points whose value depends on size and workmanship. An 
ordinary iron spear is worth about two cents. Unusually large spears 
are worth about twenty-five cents. They are particularly used for 
the purchase of women. An elephant tusk costs about two hundred 
spears ; a rhinoceros bird, ten spears ; a large rat, ten spears ; a 
pipe, only one spear ; a soup ladle, two spears ; a European gun, 



one hundred to two hundred spears ; 
and the moustache of a leopard, ten 

The East African Usandaui also use 
spear money, while the tribes of the 
Western Bantu prefer axes and spear- 
points, and the Basongo, throwing 
knives. The African Pygmies barter 
with neighbouring tribes for iron-knife 
and spear-point money. They use the 
so-called * silent bartering/ a procedure 
in which both the prospective buyer 
and the seller deposit their wares at an 
appointed spot without ever meeting 
each other in person. 

A curious money circulates along the 
upper Binus. It consists of nails and 
pins. In contrast, the Porno Indians 
of California preferred neatly polished 
cones of dolomite or magnesite. 
> One particular European coin has 
become very 
popular with 
the natives of 
Africa. It is 
the 'Maria 
taler,' an an- 
cient three- 
mark piece 
which en- 
tered the 

Dark Continent via the Near East and 

the Sudan, penetrating all North Africa 

and Western Arabia, even passing the 

Equator. This taler became tremen- 
dously popular with the natives, who 

adore the portly bust-line of the Austrian 

Empress whose image adorns one side 

of the coin. Slenderness as a mark 

of beauty is unknown to the natives of SPEAR-POINT MONEY 

Africa. Fang, West Africa 

Other foreign coins which have con- After G. Tessmann 


Northern COIN 

Congo Congo 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 



quered primitive regions are the Mexican silver dollar, a recognized 
currency all over the Far East, and the Indian rupee, current in 
Tibet and East Africa. In some 
parts of Abyssinia cartridge 
shells have been accepted as 
currency, and peaceful com- 
mercial transactions are settled 
with these reminders of wars 
gone by. 

Copper bars in the shape of 
St Andrew's crosses were a 
valuable Congo currency. 
Heavy semicircles of copper are 
money at Stanley Pool. Beauti- 
fully ornamented, such half 
rings are known in many parts 
of West Africa. These manillas, 
as they were called, were a 
recognized currency, especially 
in the kingdom of Benin, as 
their frequent appearance on 
the famed bronze plates of 
the sixteenth and seventeenth 


Bronze Plate of the Sixteenth 

Benin, West Africa 
Museum of Ethnology, Stuttgart 

centuries proves. 

In ancient China metal money 
was used in many varied shapes 
and materials. The oldest 
Chinese metal currency had 
the form of a very thin bronze 
spade, with a hollow centre and 
a four-sided handle. Bronze 
bells and other finely cast currencies were manufactured in China 
as early as 300 B.C. The ' sounding ' coins or K'iow ts'ien are 
famous for their half-moon shape, their excellent workmanship, 
and delicate ornamentation. They were known by the names of 
' moon ' or ' bridge ' money. Even the Chinese word for money, 
ts'ten, which means ' hoe,' is a reminder of the original shape of 
the oldest Chinese currency. 

In south-eastern Asia gongs were used as currency. They 
served for the purchase of wives and for the payment of fines, but 
were also used to build up considerable fortunes. Many tribes of 
western India use metal drums instead. On the island of Celebes 
brass rings are the native money, while the African Bantu use iron 



beads ; the Basongo, copper and alloy ornaments ; and the North 
American Haida, ornamented copper plates. These * coppers ' 


Spade Coin 

Bridge or Moon Coin, 
K'iow ts'ien 

After O. Munsterberg 

Bell Coins 

were cherished with religious ardour, as is the diwarra of the 

South Seas. 

,,The king of all metals, however, has 
always been gold, and no country on 
earth has ever resisted its lure. Gold 
coins as we know them are nowhere 
manufactured by primitive tribes, although 
gold bars and gold-dust have been re- 
cognized by many peoples as valuable 
mediums of payment. But even the 
evaluation of gold varies. There are 
places on earth where silver is preferred 
for everyday purchases, while gold is 
given preference in the selling and buy- 
ing of precious and beautiful objects. On 
the African Gold Coast and among the 
Ashanti, gold-dust was used as money 
and was weighed with the aid of the 
ENGRAVED * COPPER ' famed artistic gold weights of the Ashanti : 

Ceremonial Haida Money tiny, bizarre figures of animals and tools 

Museum of Ethnology, of daily life. Gold-dust money circulated 

Berlin in China and in Indo-China and, above 

all, in that most alluring of all gold 

countries, ancient Mexico. 

Modern civilizations have discarded gold bars as means of ex- 


change between seller and buyer, and have coined them into pieces 
instead. This, at least, was so until nations were forced to abandon 
their gold standards altogether. But wherever a genuine gold coin 
shows up, be it in our modern cities or in the desert of Africa, eager 
eyes recognize its value. 

To those who wonder what has happened to the former American 
and European gold coins the author is able to report that he per- 
sonally discovered one of their caches in an oasis of the Western 
Sahara, where little dancing girls of the Ouled Nail tribe perform 
their tricks for the pleasure-seeking nomads of the desert. In their 
tiny houses, built of dried mud, these girls strum their guitars, and 
whenever they raise their arms, the wide sleeves of silk glide back 
to expose scores of bracelets made of the gold coins of all civilized 
nations, coins collected from their friends and customers. 

Just as civilized nations authorize the state alone to manufacture 
money in its mints, most primitive tribes allow only one man or one 
selected group of men or women to manufacture their currency. 
For this role, many tribes in Africa choose their blacksmith, which 
helps to explain why he is the most respected member of the 
tribe, ranking immediately after royalty. At Korintji on Sumatra 
the privilege of coining copper and bra'fes-ring money is vested in 
two men especially appointed for the purpose. They have the 
honorary titles of Pagawei Djanang and Pagawei Radja, distinctions 
which they pass on to their sons by inheritance. 

* Paper money ' as an addition to coin money is as well known to 
many primitive tribes as it is common in our form of civilization. 
While modern coined money has its origin in primitive iron tools 
and raw metal bars, paper money can be traced back to cloth money 
and to the mats and hides which circulate as mediums of exchange 
among many races. Fine hand- woven mats are money on Samoa 
and in south-east Melanesia. The Yap variety is cruder. It is 
rolled together and tied to cylinders with fibre strings. 

The north-west American Indians traded with blankets, which 
represented a considerable purchasing power. In Siberia the 
natives paid their taxes in hides ; many North American Indians 
used beaver-skins for money ; and the southern tribes traded in 
raccoon hides. Other skins were used in north-western America, the 
Tlinkits using moose hides. Wherever this kind of money is in 
use, cloth money of many varied kinds may also be found to serve 
the same purpose. 

The whole tradition-sanctioned trading ceremony annually per- 
formed by the Indians of Labrador, who bring their winter fur 
harvest to the white traders of the Hudson's Bay Company in order 


to buy supplies for the coming winter, can be regarded as an 
example of the use of * hide money/ Until recently, the valuable 
fur bundles of these Indians were estimated in terms of * made 
beaver ' (M.Br.), a remnant from the times of the * beaver coin ' 
issued by the Company for their Indian trade and representing the 
value of one prime beaver-skin. 

In the Sudan and in Upper Guinea cotton money is in constant 
circulation. Tibet favours the chadak, a silk material used ex- 
clusively for making payments. In ancient Japan poets were paid 
with cloth ; the same custom is known to all readers of the tales of 
The Arabian Nights. As in the case of the glass beads, this money 
also is often subject to threatening ups and downs caused by 
changing fashion fads as, for instance, in northern Senegambia, 
where the Moors recognize as money only a distinct type of navy- 
blue Indian cotton cloth which they are able to distinguish from 
any imitation by its smell. 

Another development in the direction of the invention of paper 
money is the official stamping of money mats by white adminis- 
trators, as is done by the Portuguese in Angola, who then recognize 
such stamped mats as legal currency and accept them for payment 
of taxes. 

From this fibre money it is but a small step to the * real ' paper 
money which is the Western World's most common medium of 
payment. As far back as the thirteenth century Marco Polo 
reported the use of paper money by the Great Khan. It consisted 
of the fibres of the mulberry-tree. 

All this paper is manufactured with great lavishness and publicity, 
as if it were melted silver and pure gold because on each piece the 
body of officials, especially appointed for this purpose, not only sign 
their names, but also affix their seals. When this has been done 
in regular order the highest mint master whom His Majesty com- 
missions for this purpose dips the seal entrusted to him in vermilion 
and stamps therewith the piece of paper. In that manner it receives 
full sanction as a valid coin, and should any one imitate it he would 
be punished as a major criminal. 

Odd coins shaped from leather were used in China during the 
Han period, but they gave place to the so-called ' token ' money. 
Token money is similar to the chips used by gamblers to represent 
money as long as the game is on. China had, and still has to-day, 
such token moneys of clay, porcelain, or lacquer. During modern 
Chinese funerals ' the money of the deceased ' is symbolically 
burned the ghosts who demand this are successfully fooled by 
scraps of paper replacing genuine bills. In South America 


European bus companies used to issue tickets made of gutta-percha 
which the natives accepted and treated as money. 

Almost every ancient type of currency is surrounded by countless 
myths that tie it up with the gods, the dead ancestors, and the 
spirits and ghosts living in all objects of nature. These beliefs tend 
to increase the value of money and stop robbers and forgers. The 
* civilized * criminal who holds up a bank is threatened merely with 
imprisonment ; the primitive robber of money, however, is doomed 
and exposed to the wrath of the gods, a punishment of eternity 
which makes this type of crime almost non-existent among most 

The natives of the Papao Islands, like many other primitives, 
consider their currency of heavenly origin, created by mystical birds 
and fishes and hidden by them along the beaches of mysterious 
islands. When this money changes hands a surtax is added so as 
to appease * the feelings of the coin/ 

In Mecca, the centre of Islam, most women carry a cherished 
holy charm made of ancient Venetian gold coins showing the image 
of Christ and of San Marco. In Tibet, Indian rupee coins are 
used in the same way, but their religious value is due to a pious error, 
for the image of Queen Victoria is takeh for the head of the Dalai 

The copper plates of the American north-west coast were in- 
dividually named. They were kept in their * own house ' and even 
received daily food. Women were strictly forbidden to enter such 
a house. The ' coppers ' themselves supposedly came from the 
man in the moon as a present for his fellow-tribesmen ; others 
believed that they were brought by a mighty chieftain whose magic 
castle was in the sea. 

This religious veneration of money differs considerably from our 
own cult of the god Mammon, for it reaches much deeper into the 
soul of primitive men than the modern desire to grasp as great an 
amount as possible of the indispensable dollar. 

All over the world there are careful savers as well as spendthrifts. 
Just as in our own case, the Melanesian Islander is at liberty either 
to squander his riches or to deposit them carefully in his savings 
bank, built in the centre of the village for the safekeeping of money 
with an official watching the precious shell strings. People part 
with their diwarra with the same feeling of reluctance and regret 
that we have when we part with our shillings. The effect is the 
same all over the world, whether the Salaga customer keeps twenty 
thousand cowries in his fibre purse as small change, or the Pangwe 
carries his iron money in string bags on his arms, or the Abyssinian 


takes his cartridge shells from a European cartridge bag. And it is 
as easy to lose in gambling when, among the African Bassaris, 
the cowrie falls wrong side up, as it is in Monte Carlo when the 
croupier's rake pulls in one's stake. 

Even the dead in their graves are not safe from their creditors. 
The relatives of a deceased Ewe tribesman cover his body with 
cowries so that all rightful creditors may collect their share. Taxes 
are a nuisance everywhere, no matter whether they a^e paid in 
dollars or in shell money, in mats or in edibles. In Bornu every 
male citizen has to pay one thousand shells for taxes, each pack 
ox is taxed with an additional thousand shells as * sales tax,' and for 
each slave there exists a * luxury tax J of two thousand shells. 

But each region has its own financial tycoon. The African king 
of Nassakama sold his land to the African Company, Ltd, for a 
yearly pension of three hundred thousand cowries. 

Exchange speculators are the cleverest wizards of all, and many 
of them show their skill in primitive societies. A native of the 
Ashanti tribe was astute enough to trade in all his cowrie money 
in the year 1860 at the rate of one dollar for eighty-five strings. 
He waited thirty-six years, until the exchange rate had risen to 
two hundred and sixteen Strings for one dollar, to buy himself a 
new fortune of cowries and become the wealthiest man of his people. 

Hashash, an iron coin, was officially introduced in Kordofan in 
1820. In the Sulu Archipelago the sultan stabilized the exchange 
rate of certain cotton pieces used as currency, and the rate was 
determined in such a way that it never changed again, regardless 
of increasing or diminishing imports. 

When an inflation threatens a primitive tribe, caused by a change 
of fashion or by excessive imports of new values, a wise financial 
policy is the only means of saving the investors' property just as 
in our civilization. This happened, for instance, in the year 1840, 
when Shah Omar of Bornu decreed that the Maria Theresa taler 
and the Spanish dollar would henceforth be legal tender and 
that cowrie shells should become the official small change 
thus eliminating all inflationary tendencies of other mediums of 

But deflation can also threaten the economic stability of a people. 
An interesting example occurred during the Second World War, 
and has been reported by official Netherlands sources in the Dutch 
East Indies : 

To the Indonesians of this remote outpost gold and silver have 
no value, the accepted money long having been beautiful coloured 
sea-shells formerly brought from long distances over dangerously 


precipitous mountain trails. As the shells are fragile the money 
supply naturally must be renewed from time to time. 

However, the shores where these particular shells can be found 
were in Japanese hands. As a result, deflation threatened the 
district with disruption of the entire economic system because of the 
acute shortage of * money.' 

Finally, in despair, Dutch officials administering the district 
delegated an officer to Australia in an effort to solve the problem. 
The Netherlands East Indies Commission then sent men to comb 
the Australian beaches, but without success. Then one day an 
official joyfully burst into the offices of the Commission, shouting : 
" No more deflation. I've found money." 

He led the astonished Dutch officials to Melbourne's leading 
department store, where the shiny shells were sold as toys for 
Australian children. The Netherlands administrator returned to 
his district bearing bag after bag of the shiny shells, restoring 
happiness and prosperity to the people. 

Only a very few tribes on earth do not depend to some extent 
on money to cover the necessities of their existence. Among them 
are the Australian hunters and food gatherers, who know neither 
poverty nor fortune. But as soon as the economic form of a society 
assumes more involved and complicated aspects the conception of 
money enters the people's lives. It is merely a matter of chance 
and locality whether such money consists of shells, stones, hides, or 
metals. The pains of poverty and the power of wealth remain the 
same to all who have discovered the secrets of selling and buying. 


From Tom-tom to Newspaper 

TT^XPLORERS, ENTERING REGIONS no white man's foot has ever 
JLjv touched before, are amazed to find that the natives of the 
deserts, the prairies, and the jungles often receive them without 
surprise and in some cases even have quarters and food ready for 
the members of the expedition. Questions about how these people 
learnt of the approaching visitors are answered with a vague and 
evasive : " We were told," or, simply, " We knew." How does 
primitive man in the deepest wilderness without modern systems of 
communication obtain this information ? 

Many a sheep farmer in Australia has been mystified by the 
sudden disappearance of his loyal native workers who, after a few 
days of absence, return to work as though nothing had happened, 
furnishing after long hesitancy the explanation : " We were sum- 
moned home by our tribe under penalty of death if we should 
not follow the call." What call ? How were they notified in the 
barren wilderness of the Australian bush ? 

Civilized man, venturing into the wilderness, must reckon 
with the fact that a perfect system of wireless telegraphy has 
been invented and perfected by primitive men. Their ancient 
methods of disseminating news are foolproof ; short circuits, 
static disturbances, magnetic storms, or strikes never impair 
their efficiency/ The struggle for life is merciless in the wide- 
open spaces, and the speed with which the news is received and 
passed on may save or doom human lives. The white man can 
scarcely hope to learn all secrets of the native codes, but, taking 
notice of their intricate and perfect nature, he cannot help but 
admire the brains that originated them. 

The simplest medium of communication is, of course, language. 
It leads to the development of other acoustic methods of news 
communication. In contrast to these acoustic methods initiated 
by language, there are optical means of broadcasting news which 
furnish in their development the link to the beginnings of script. 
Radio and newspaper the approach through the ear and by the 
eye are our own two principles used for disseminating news. 
Even though their means of expression have been magnificently 
perfected to-day, these same two principles have served the same 
purpose since the dawn of time. Among primitive methods, we 
find that acoustics language and sound is used by societies 



whose domains are comparatively small, while the application of 
optical devices is mainly found among tribes occupying the great 
open spaces. 

The small communities of agricultural peoples, whose largest 
political unit is the village, have developed systems of communi- 
cation mainly based on the principles of sound, or acoustics. 
The herdsmen and related peoples, on the other hand, whose 
bands are scattered over wide areas, have developed the optic 
system of news dissemination. Their optic systems led finally, 
in the old Thigh cultures, to the invention of script, with the drawn 
picture as its original manifestation. 

It was not until the emergence of the high culture that both 
principles, the acoustic and the optic, were perfected and blended 
into the complicated instruments of news agencies and other 
institutions exclusively dedicated to the current enlightenment 
of the public. Originally the art of writing was developed by 
the priests and kept secret to serve their own purposes. This, 
however, does not mean that all methods of news communication 
originally served religious aims. From the earliest times, we 
can detect two parallel efforts stimulating the manifold systems 
of news communication : a rationalistic, purposeful desire, and a 
religious impetus. 

In principle, the difference between our modern methods of 
news communication and those of the primitives is not as 
fundamental as one might assume. Telegraph, newspaper, and 
radio, however wide their range of effectiveness, do not reach 
all members of the population immediately. 

Even to-day many rural communities use means of communi- 
cation which resemble those of the children of nature. Thus, 
in parts of our modern civilized world, when the town-crier's bell 
calls together the inhabitants of a village to hear a proclamation of 
the city council or the announcement of the next town meeting, 
he makes use of a system almost identical to that of the natives 
of New Guinea, Africa, and South America, where the village 
drum transmits important news to the community. What is the 
difference between an illiterate delivery woman of any * civilized ' 
backward region who marks down pieces of ordered merchandise 
by drawing symbols representing radishes, flour, or household 
gadgets, and the North American Indian who uses mnemotechnic 
pictorial sequences to record the traditions, songs, and victories 
of his tribe ? 

But the analogies go much further. When a knot in a hand- 
kerchief serves to remind us of an errand, when a black mourning 



band around our sleeve announces a death in one's family, when 
a road sign tells us where to go, when a gong calls us to dinner, 
when in olden times a stick was broken over the convict, when 
St John's fire glows on the mountain-tops of Europe what 
difference is there between these announcements and, for instance, 
the carved message sticks of the Australians, the mourning paint 

of the Tasmanians, the trail- 
marking branches of Siberian 
tribes, the tearing of grass leaves 
when the verdict is spoken by 
the Loango judge, and finally, 
the smoke-and-fire signals of the 
prairie tribes, the Puelche, the 
Australians, and the Papua ? 
They all spell out some kind of 
message, and are understood by 
those whom they concern. 

The oldest means of human 
communication is language, and 
there is no people on earth with- 
out a language. Language does 
not function by the spoken word 
alone, but may assume all forms 
of expression which the physical 
structure of the organs of speech 
allows. The Veddas of Ceylon 
and the Central African Pygmies 
communicate the news in a 
peculiar whispered sing-song. 
An American W.A.C. corporal, 
Margaret Hastings, marooned by an aeroplane accident during the 
Second World War in a valley of the New Guinea mountain- 
side, heard "a wave of odd, continuous sound," which grew 
" louder and louder and closer and closer. It sounded exactly 
like a pack of dogs yapping." It turned out to be a signal sum- 
moning the native helpers to the spot of the accident. The 
New Guinea natives are very crafty with this sort of wireless ; 
they call each other from mountain-top to mountain- top, with 
intermediate stations relaying the news. 

Among the Negritos of Northern Luzon, five different types of 
news criers have been distinguished by the explorer Vanoverbergh, 
who describes them as : 


Belgian Congo 

American Museum of Natural 
History, New York 



(1) A shrill cry, at a very high pitch, long, and without variation 
in tone. " Where are you ? " Very often used in the forest. 

(2) A cry similar to the preceding, but lower in pitch. " What 
is the matter ? " " What do you need ? " Very often used in the 
forest in answer to (i). 

(3) A cry similar to the preceding, but much shorter, and 
followed in one continuous emission of voice by another one, at a 
pitch considerably lower and very short. This means : " Come 
along/' " All right," " Come this way," etc. Very often used in 
the forest, also used alternatively by people approaching a house 
or a meeting place. 

(4) A shrill cry, very long, starting at a very high pitch, and 
lowering gradually until extinction. This cry is emitted by all 
present and in chorus, when there is a peal of thunder or an extra- 
ordinary gust of wind. The fifth type is * merely emotional/ 

The Hurons and Iroquois, by long-drawn-out ' scalp-cries,' 
announced the number of enemies slain in 
battle. S wanton points out that among the 
Creek Indians, " whooping also formed a 
kind of means of communication/' and he 
distinguishes between the " death whoop " 
and " the whoop of the successful warrior 
coming home with a scalp." 

Primitive villagers of India warn their 
neighbours of adjoining communities of 
tigers threatening their live stock, as 
Corbett tells us : 

Standing on a commanding point, maybe 
a big rock or the roof of a house, a man 
coo-ees to attract the 'attention of a neigh- 
bouring village, and then shouts the message 
across in a high-pitched voice. From village 
to village the message is thus broadcast in an 
incredibly short time. Hence it was usually 
possible to learn of the man-eater's attacks 
shortly after they occurred. 


With drumstick of the 

marrow of the raffia 


Pangwe, West Africa 
After G. Tessmann 

But however strategic the position of the 
caller, the capacity of the human voice is 
comparatively weak. It was, therefore, 
only logical to amplify its range by substituting artificial instru- 
ments to make the news audible to all who should be reached. 
The western Bantu invented for this purpose an intricate system 
of signal pipes. Flute signals are in general use in eastern Sudan 



and in the northern Cameroons. Signal horns and shell trumpets 
call the population together to encourage the fighting warriors 

Musewh of Ethnology, Cologne 

among the Wute of the Cameroons, the Zueva and Caribs of South 
America, the Admiralty and Caroline Islanders. The bugle of 

our modern armies is used in a 
similar way. 

Another signalling instrument 
of acoustic news communication, 
and the most prominent one at 
that, is the slit drum or signal- 
ling drum, a typical cultural 
element of the simpler agricul- 
tural societies of West Africa, 
South America, and New Guinea. 
It consists of a whole tree or 
part of a trunk, completely 
hollowed out but with both end 
segments left intact. The upper 
middle section has a long and 
comparatively narrow slit into which one or more drumsticks are 
inserted to produce, in proportion to their size and width and 
the force applied by the drummer, a series of easily distinguish- 
able sounds of different pitch. The resulting variety of effects 



South America 

After Koch-Grtinberg 


makes possible the development of complete code systems of 
endless possibilities. 

These cylindrical tom-toms may be of smaller size or even of 
different shape, like the box drums of some African tribes, The 
Banda, a Ubangi tribe of French Equatorial Africa, have two 
distinct types of drums. One, the linga, a large tree-trunk 
mounted on four feet, is beaten with two sticks of different size, 
both with hard rubber balls at their ends. This is mainly used 
to communicate from one village to another. The second model, 
the okporo y smaller and of conical shape, is beaten with the hand 
or with a light stick. Its sound 
mainly accompanies the funeral 
ceremonies of the tribe. 

All kinds of messages may thus 
be sounded. They may be of 
a social or ceremonial nature, SIGNAL DRUM OF THE BANSSA 
or they may announce current Cameroons, West Africa 

events like an approaching After Max Schmidt 

safari. When entering a village 

in Nigeria, the explorer Hives-Lumley was preceded by mighty 
drum-calls. They said to all who h*ad ears to hear : " Come 
to the market-place without fear ! Come ! The white man is 
here and wants to speak to you. No war palaver ! Come ! " 
Audible for many miles, it was repeated at frequent intervals to 
make sure that everybody had had a chance to spell it out. As 
a rule, the big drums are set up in the middle of the market-place 
and thus represent a kind of local cable office from which all news 
of general importance can be disseminated to the entire population. 

Many South American Indians use similar models, often 
equipped with additional tongues protruding into the slit. Such 
tom-toms, sometimes called teponatzli after ancient Mexican 
and Central American models which were their possible proto- 
types, summon the community together in the Zueva settlements 
of Colombia, among the Cara of Ecuador, and among the Jivaro 
and Tukano in the Orinoco and Amazon regions. Beaten with 
rubber-topped sticks, they can be heard at very great distances. 
They announce the approach of the enemy, and call for the erection 
of defence structures ; they summon the villagers to join in peace- 
ful gatherings. Often they are decorated with exquisitely artistic 

The natives of the Gazelle Peninsula have, like their brethren 
of New Guinea, worked out drum codes of great variety, and 
are able to express anything they want to broadcast, be it the 


arrival of visitors or ships or the results of a successful pig hunt. 
Almost every farmhouse boasts its own drum and can communicate 
with the other participants of the ' party line/ The Nor-Papuans 
of Dallmann Harbour, New Guinea, have, besides the big dobon 
slit drum which sounds the news, smaller hand drums or voagon 
of hour-glass shape, richly carved, with lizard-skin coverings at 
one end. The voagon accompanies their dances and songs, while 
the dobon not only is employed for the ' broadcast to all/ but may 
also be used for private communication between two individuals. 
An expert connoisseur of their drum language, the missionary 
Father Joseph Schmidt, who managed to listen in on many of their 
private and public drum conversations, has transcribed them very 
skilfully by indicating the variations of sound volume by dots of 
smaller or larger size. The following examples are some of the 
results of his eavesdropping. 

If, for instance, a hungry husband comes home in the evening 
and finds that his wife is still out fishing on the lagoon he may 
call her home as the brown-skinned Saijam did, by this signal : 

The last six beats are Sarjam's personal ' initials/ his individual 

Not only the individual caller but also the sib as a whole has 
its own characteristic ' alarm bell ' or * theme song ' to enable the 
listener to distinguish immediately the identity of the sender 
and to know whether merely one man or the whole community 
speaks. The sib ' signature ' is called morob. If, for instance, 
not only Saijam's wife but all women of the community should 
be absent unduly long the individual husbands would not call 
their wives home, but the sib itself would * speak ' in one single 
morob signal : 


Each drum call, individual or morob, has its own name. This 
makes it easier for the village gossips to talk about the latest news. 
Some old women who hear, for instance, the gankabaret, know 
immediately that at a certain household the ordered goods have 
been delivered, but that the boy who brought them found nobody 
at home. He will therefore beat the drum to spell out the 
gankabaret to the absent customer : 


This publicity given to private affairs by the nature of drum 
signals can be very upsetting to a thief who, hearing the naboa- 
rom, knows that the whole community has been urged by its 
sounds to give him a good beating at sight. He may be in hiding 
at the moment, but the naboarom rings in his ears as an unpleasant 
reminder of things to come : 

Everyday occurrences, joys and tragedies, are thus shared by all. 

Every one loves to follow the invitation to the community 
house, broadcast by the ' tobacco drum ' signal, sdkein dob on, 
with its four different volumes of sound, as the dots indicate : 

and all are grieved by the sombre monotony of the brag atan 
(' the spirit speaks ') signals which heralds the sudden death of 
an adult member of the community. 

The complicated nature of the signals requires careful listen- 
ing. To make this easier, they are preceded by an introductory 
theme for identification purposes. For* each morob or sib signal, 
this permanent * station identification ' is : 

The variety of the drum calls of this tribe is boundless. Among 
the standard messages are : the warning call, the gathering call, 
the betel-nut call (all men are to come to the community house, 
bringing betel nuts along), the coconut call, the pig's-teeth-dog- 
necklace call (these * moneys ' are to be brought along for a trans- 
action of exchange, for instance, for the purchase of a canoe), 
and many others. 

While the drum call is appropriate for humans, ' ghosts ' and 
' spirits ' do not respond to it. Their dignity requires the sound 
of the brag flute, a sacred instrument which only men may play. 
This is one of the principal privileges taught to the young men 
during their initiation ceremonies. No man can be of any influence 
in the community who does not know how to play it well. The 
sound of the brag flute is supposed to be the voice of an individual 
sacred spirit who is lured to the spot when he hears it. If the 
player's skill satisfies him the brag spirit himself will enter the flute 
to be carried along to the house of worship, the brag house, for 
further ceremonies. 


Of much wider distribution than the acoustic means of com- 
munication are the optical systems. The methods of communi- 
cating by visible signs start with the possibilities provided by 
the human body. Just as the simplest acoustic means of com- 
munication is language, so the gesture is the simplest form of 
optical communication. It may be used to indicate single key 
words representing numbers, objects, moods, or directions ; or 
it may be perfected into an actual substitute for speech J?y adding 
a sequence of mimic or gestural expressions to make whole 
sentences for the purpose of co-ordinated conversation. 

Examples of the first type are the gestured numbers of the 
Tikar of the Cameroons, or the word signs of the Prairie Indians 
who express, for instance, the term ' female ' by a combing 
gesture, a * tent ' by an imitation of the conical shape of their 
homes ; ' death ' by an * adverse ' gesture of both hands, the 
* sun ' by a circle, a ' tree ' by an indication of its branches, and 
so forth. The second type of the use of the gesture the creation 
of regular sentences by purely mimic expressions enables its 
users to speak to each other in full detail without the utterance 
of a single sound. The ancient author, Adair, deeply impressed 
by the perfection of this sign language, described it very eloquently. 

The present American Aborigines seem to be as skilful Panto- 
mimi as ever were those of ancient Greece or Rome, or the modern 
Turkish mutes, who describe the meanest things spoken, by 
gesture, action, and the passions of the face. Two far-distant 
Indian nations, who understand not a word of each other's language, 
will intelligibly converse together, and contract agreements, without 
an interpreter, in such a surprising manner, as is hardly credible. 

Thus, primitive man has solved a problem which, from the 
Tower of Babel up to the lengthy translations necessitated by 
the diverse language of members of the United Nations Council, 
has not been solved by civilized man. The sign language, this 
Esperanto of the wilderness, is or was used by many American 
and African tribes. 

Only the very recent invention of the radio has changed the 
ancient belief that sight reaches farther than sound. During the 
preceding periods of time, optic means of communication had 
the advantage so far as range was concerned. For this reason, the 
attempt was made to develop the effectiveness and perceptibility 
of the human gesture by the addition of other optic signals, like 
smoke and fire, which could reach greater distances. 

When, for instance, an Indian spotted a buffalo herd, he hurried 


to an elevated spot in sight of his village, lifted a blanket with 
both hands over his head, and let it sink down slowly a gesture 
which set the whole community in action. This * Morse Code ' 
of lifting and lowering a blanket at certain meaningful intervals 
was further perfected by the alternative covering of a smoking 
fire and its exposure which, again, made it visible at even greater 
distances. If no fire was at hand dust was thrown up and down 
for a similar effect. The Seminole Indians, " when they went 
hunting, divided into parties which preserved the proper distance 
from one another by smoke signals. They would light a fire 
and, as the film of smoke rose, they would stop it at intervals by 
throwing a blanket over it " (Swanton). Smoke and fire signals 
directed the battle movements of the South American Puelche 
and Ranqueles. The ancient Gallians used similar signals in their 
wars against Caesar. 

The same effect can be achieved by light signals. The Cibicu 
Indians used them in 1902 when the newly arriving government 
agent, accompanied by representatives of the Cibicu, descended 
the range toward their valley. These representatives began, as 
Reagan tells it, " to signal, by flashing sun-rays across the inter- 
vening space by small reflecting locking-glasses, " announcing 
that the white man was coming. " The reflected glasses of the 
valley answered back : * It is well. We are well. We have plenty 
to eat.' And so on." When the party finally arrived they found 
" every Indian in the valley there to receive them, having been 
called together by the signalling." 

To avoid the necessity of a continuous repetition of important 
signals, means were found to give such recurring messages a 
lasting quality. This is the purpose of the road signs, the warning 
signals, the appeals for help, and, in a way, of the property marks 

The Shoshoni Indians build sign poles on heaps ot stones, 
indicating the exact direction of water places. Kiatexamut 
Eskimo travellers indicate the way they have taken by grass- 
trimmed sticks planted along the trail. In Africa the Ewe of 
Togo let the experts of the jungle go ahead to show the group 
following the ' right ' way by covering the * wrong ' trails with 
leaves and with grass. The Tungus indicate the presence of 
traps by cutting a small tree, attaching to it an arrow pointing 
downwards. This arrow points upwards if the hunter has left the 

But the trail is not only marked for the traveller it may also 
display signs of warning to keep others away from regions of 




acute danger. The Apache place a dead owl or its effigy, both 
images of death, on a trail leading to a place of disease. It has 
been reported that when smallpox broke out in their region owl 
effigies were placed at once on all the trails leading toward the 
camp and that " no Indian ventured that way, and consequently 

no one got the smallpox. " 

While such signs are destined 
to keep the passer-by away for 
his own good, others are erected 
to call him to a clearly defined 
place in order to bring help to 
some one in need. I saw such 
signs among the Montagnais- 
Naskapi Indians of Labrador 
who live in a subarctic climate 
on their huge, isolated hunting 
grounds, often many miles away 
from their ,next tribesmen. 
Since their living conditions are 
extremely severe they have de- 
veloped a very efficient signal 
system of mutual assistance. A 
call for help directed to the 
anonymous public must be 
answered by anyone who hap- 
pens to see it ; refusal would be 
considered criminal. Notched 
sticks planted along the trail 
indicate the direction of the 
stricken camp. In most cases the victims suffer from starvation or 
exposure. A prospective helper, seeing the sign, either hurries 
immediately to the place of need or, if he himself is not adequately 
equipped, attaches an additional message to the original pole, either 
stating when he will return or advising the next passer-by of what 
he should do to join the mission of mercy. These sticks tell the 
whole story : not only the direction of the stricken camp but 
also, by the depth of the grooved notches and their shape, the 
nature of the illness and the number of persons involved. Small 
wreaths woven of branches bring the helper's message to the 
attention of other passers-by. The blackening of the tell-tale 
notches announces that any additional helper would arrive too 
late, as death has already claimed its victims. 

Property marks, very common among many peoples, are 


After Julius E. Lips 



announcements to the public that a certain object belongs to a 

certain person or group of persons ; as such, the announcement 

includes a suggestion of threat against a possible thief. Things 

may be the property of a whole group and so marked, like the 

canoes of the Eskimo or the reindeer herds of the Lapps and 

Tungus. The latter cut their property marks in the 

ears of their animals, while the Samoyeds burn them 

in their thighs. Each property symbol may be used 

only by those entitled to it, be they individual, family, 

or band. Its use is forbidden to anyone else. The 

same custom of branding the herds with property 

marks of the tribe or band is customary among the 

Arabs, who mark their camels, sheep and horses with 

their wasm. Property marks are also known among 

Canadian and American Indian tribes and, although 

this type of * announcement ' is not too frequent in 

South America, it is nevertheless used by the Mbaya, 

Ashluslay, and Chiriguano, who put their property 

marks on animals, slaves, or tools, and, last but not 

least, even on their women. The modern animal 

breeders of civilized countries stick to this ancient 

custom as most practical ; even race-horses thus 

wear their stables' crests. The initials on our own 

brief-cases, handbags, pieces of luggage, etc., belong 

to the same category. 

Another group of communications is directed not 
merely ' to whom it may concern ' but to specified 
individuals or a distinct group of persons. Such 
communications may be of a private nature like, for STICK 
instance, a commercial order, or they may be of Kimberleys 
political or diplomatic content. Western 

Among these the carved message sticks of the Australia 
Australians are of a more mnemotechnic significance, After F. D. 
since they require the interpretation of the messenger. McCarthy 
The text, a mere memory aid to the carrier, may 
consist of invitations to feasts or initiation ceremonies, or it may 
be a regular commercial order like a carved stick sent by the 
* firm ' Sandy to the ' firm ' Cangaroo requesting * by express ' a 
specified quantity of the narcotic pituri plant, for which prompt 
payment in spears and boomerangs was guaranteed. 

Of an international nature are primitive ' diplomatic bundles * 
or * diplomats' sticks/ which serve intertribal affairs. Such news* 
carrying bundles sent by American Indians to the United States 


Government contain sometimes a feather-trimmed ear of corn 
whose hollowed-out inner part is filled with tobacco (offer of the 
pipe of peace). Around its centre a woollen cord is slung, also 
trimmed with yellow feathers. The message reads : " The pipe 
shall be smoked by the President/' In other words, it is a 
declaration of peace. 

For declaration of war, the Lutsu of eastern Tibet send a carved 
stick trimmed with feathers to their enemies, to advise them that 
many hundred warriors are already on their way to invade" the land 
with the speed of a bird's flight. The Niam-Niam of Africa 
declare war by planting an ear of corn and a chicken feather in 
the enemies' path, attaching an arrow in a near-by branch. This 
means that anyone disregarding these signs will die by the arrow, 
especially if he should try to rob the fields or to kill other people's 

Occasionally the contents of such messages or letters can be 
of an extremely personal nature ; they may even be love-letters. 
To this type of communication belongs the love-letter of a Yukagir 
girl scratched on birch bark, although it may not be without a 
touch of European influence. (See illustration opposite.} Its message 
is sad, written by a disappointed soul. In a house (A and B) 
sits the jilted girl (C), the letter-writer. The crossed lines indicate 
grief. The dotted line in the upper right of C is the girl's braid 
of hair. F is her rival, a Russian man stealer, with braids and 
skirt. G is the untrue lover whose infatuation with the Russian 
girl is evidenced by the cross lines of the upper ornament. The 
line J, leading from the rival to A, cuts through the love lines of 
the man G and the letter-writer. M is the latter's faithful thoughts. 

is a Yukagir suitor who tries to win her affections. P and Q 
are the children of the unfaithful couple, F and G. Summed up, 
the message reads : " You left me for that Russian woman who 
blocks your way to me. You may even have children with her. 

1 shall always grieve, thinking of you alone, although another 
man offers me his love." 

Another variation of these international or personal mnemo- 
technic * letters ' is the method of establishing records with the help 
of counting boxes, knotted cords, or wampum belts. The Cara 
of Ecuador put pebbles of different shape, colour, and size into 
small wooden boxes to record numbers or occurrences. Similar 
boxes are in use also along the Peruvian coast-line. More famed 
are the khipus or knotted cords found in the ancient graves of 
Peru. They were mainly used to * write down ' administrative 
facts, registering the amounts of taxes received and the like. It 



is true that poems and literary works have also been transcribed 
in such khipus, but their principal purpose remained the mnemo- 
technic support of the spoken word. The colours of the diverse 
strings indicate the object of the record (province, tribe, type of 
peoples involved, etc.) ; the shapes of the knots express numbers. 
* Footnotes ' were added by side-strings. These khipus had for 

F G 



Birch bark 
After K. Weule 

their special guardian a government official known as the khipu- 
camayox. However, their use was not restricted to Peru alone. 
Ancient China and the regions influenced by its culture were 
another centre of khipu * writing/ and this system is still in use 
among many Indian tribes of South America. 

Occasionally combined with pictorial drawings, the wampum 
belts of North American Indian tribes served as legal instru- 
ments in concluding a contract. Although originally their ' texts ' 
were decipherable only by the two contracting parties, they became 
a kind of regular news communication after the significance of 
their arrangement and their colours (white and purple) had become 


commonly known. In 1682 William Penn concluded his famous 
territorial treaty with the chieftains of the Lenni-Lenape at 
Shakamaxon with such a wampum belt, which belt is to-day 
owned by the Pennsylvania Historical Society. 


Sioux Indians 
American Museum of Natural History, New York 

All these message- expressing tokens have one thing in common 
which raises their importance beyond the sounded and the flashed 
signals of older cultures : they are of a lasting nature ; they 
constitute records. But still, they need an interpretation of the 
symbols used, and a correct interpretation at that. 


Of a more realistic nature are pictures of things : they can 
speak for themselves. Thus we observe among the optical 
mediums of communication a clear trend towards the drawn 
picture as a means of expressing a message. The pictorial draw- 
ings and paintings of the arctic tribes, the Prairie Indians, the 
natives of the western Carolines, and the Pelew Islands furnish 
excellent examples of the development of this type of news com- 
munication. In the records of these peoples we find descriptions 
of everyday occurrences, of special events, and of the tribal 
traditions. The correctness of the recorded texts is continuously 
checked by the community, and heavy penalties are in store for 
scheming propagandists who try to mislead public opinion by 
reporting the news in a purposefully wrong or incorrect manner. 

Most famed among the pictorial documents are the chronicles 
or * winter-counts ' of the North American Indians, in which im- 
portant events in the history of the tribe were rendered permanent 
by drawings of the persons, animals, scenes, etc., involved. Well 
known is the walam olum (true-to-life painting) of the history 
of the Delaware Indians from * pre-pale-face ' times. Theirs 
and other tribes' lives and adventures are recorded in this fashion ; 
and we find on their painted buckskins, coats, and tent coverings 
the detailed stones of great floods, of wars, of abundance of food, 
of times of trial and deprivation, and of all occurrences that shaped 
the history of their people. 

Pictorial reports sometimes read like a fascinating newspaper 
head-line. Take, for instance, the Eskimo report of a seal hunt 
in which a sequence of twelve drawings gives a vivid description. 
(See illustration below.) First, to the left, is the author, or master 

After K. Weule 

of ceremonies, whose right hand points to himself, while his 
left hand indicates the direction in which the event came to pass. 
The man with the paddle next to him explains the way taken 
by the hunting canoe. The following little man tells the time 
needed to bring the hunters to the first destination of the ex- 
pedition (right hand on head : to sleep ; left hand with one finger 
lifted : one night). The circle with the two dots is the scene 
of the first stop of the group : an island with two huts on it. To 



the right of the island the author reappears to explain that the 
hunters moved on to a second island this one without human 
abodes where they slept for two nights (man with two fingers 
raised). At this point, excitement enters the story : two seals 
were sighted, as the right-hand gesture of the next man shows 
(the sign for ' seal ' with two fingers outstretched). The hunters 

got their harpoons ready. 
The following image of a 
seal symbolizes th& two 
game animals. They were 
shot with bow and arrow. 
The aim of the hunt thus 
being achieved, the men 
could return home (canoe 
with two occupants, their 
paddles in downward move- 
ment) to their durable 
winter houses, depicted in 
the last drawing, which 
represents an igloo. This 
ends the story of the seal 
hunt, as written down by 
an ace reporter. 

But vivid as such pic- 
torial descriptions may be, 
they still are by their very 


Depicting Marriage Ceremony 

After the marriage ceremony has been 
concluded by tying the newly-weds' 
mantles together with a knot the young 
husband carries his bride on his back 
to an inner room. Four torch-bearing 
women attendants accompany them 

nature mere memory aids, 
fully understood in their 
significance only by the 
participants in the event 
itself and by those who recall it, or by outsiders to whom cp,ch 
picture has been explained. If the drawings are simply used as 
pictures in their objective sense the margin of their interpretation 
may be wide. They can, at any rate, convey only the general idea 
expressed by the person who made the drawings, and this idea 
rather than the picture is the important factor. 

In regions where picture writing and reading is profusely used 
by the population the white invader very often took advantage of 
these mediums by using the local talent to promote the teachings 
of the Christian religion. For the benefit of the natives of Mexico, 
Catholic priests ordered paintings of the entire catechism on great 
cloths which were shown to the people during services. 

It was a long way from the development of the naturalistic, 



accurate drawing to the purely linear and abstract ornament 
the fixed character which we call a letter. There was no quick 
jump from the pictorial symbol to the alphabet the steps in 
between were the symbolized sentence, the word-characters, 
the writing in syllables, and 
finally, the phonetically 
composed letters grouped 
in fixed units called alpha- 
bets. Not until the appear- 
ance of definite characters 
of one unchangeable mean- 
ing, which any literate 
reader can reconstruct into 
words or letters of the 
spoken language, can we 
speak of script the charac- 
teristic feature of each high 
culture. The tendency of 
this evolution is from con- 
crete representation to ab- 
stract symbol, from the 
specifying picture to the 
character of general sig- Calendar Symbols from Ancient Mexico, 
nificance, and it is often also used as alphabetical Scheme 

(1) couatl (snake) Codex Bologna 

(2) couatl (snake) Codex Vaticanus B 

(3) miquiztli (death) Codex Hammabur- 


(4) tochtli (rabbit) Codex Nutt. 

(5) cuetzpalin (lizard) Codex Hammabur- 


(6) quauhtli (eagle) Codex Nutt. 

(7) ozomatli (monkey) Codex Nutt. 

(8) ocelotl (jaguar) Codex Vaticanus B 

(9) mazatl (deer) Codex Bologna 

After T. W. Danzel 


difficult to recognize the 
original form, obliterated in 
the long sequence of the 

The written characters 
of the Chinese, Babylonian, 
Sumerian, Assyrian, and 
Egyptian high cultures fur- 
nish excellent examples of 
this development. 


Egyptian hieroglyphs can 
be reconstructed to the original drawing of the object or idea that 
shaped their later script characters be it the stone jug, realistically 
drawn about 2900 B.C. and transferred in eight different intermedia- 
ting forms to the written character * /mm ' in about 400 B.C., or 
the equally naturalistic papyrus scroll of the third pre-Christian 
millennium, which became in similar fashion the sign ' md 3.t,' 
used for abstract notions. Even the modern Chinese script 
maintains in its clear characters a marvellously simplified picture 




of the original pictorial representation of the objects or notions 
they express. 
The Assyrian cuneiforms, however, emancipated themselves 


A D 


Egyptian hieroglyph; Egyptian letter; Phoenician 
letter; Greek letter; Latin letter 

After K. Weule 

from the naturalistic image at a very early time, and it is rather 
difficult to recognize the original picture in these arrow-headed 
or wedge-shaped characters. 


STONE JUG WITH HANDLE: the sign 'hnm 9 

290O-2800 B.C. 2700-2600 B.C. 200O-l8oO B.C. Ahout I5OO B.C. 5OO-IOO B.C. 

(Book type) 

* Hieratic ' 

or Handwritten 


* Demotic ' 

or Popular 


f f r 

About 1500 B.C. About 1900 B.C. About 1300 B.C. About 200 B.C. 400-100 B.C. 

After Md'ller 



Our own alphabet probably goes back to the Phoenicians. 
Almost unchanged, it has survived the ages. Some modern 
sceptics, however, call it * wasteful,' and one of its most renowned 
opponents, G. B. Shaw, repeatedly appealed to the British 
Government to appoint a committee of economic and statistical 


PAPYRUS SCROLL: the sign l md^.t^ which signifies abstract notions 


2900-2800 B.C. 2700-2600 B.C. 2000-1800 B.C. About 1500 B.C. SCO-JOG B.C. 

(Book type) 

Hieratic ' 
or Handwritten 

' Demotic ' 

or Popular 



About 1500 B.C. About 1900 B.C. About 1300 B.C. About 200 B.C. 400-100 B.C. 

After Moller 

experts to create a new phonetic English alphabet with no more 
than one sign for each sound. Claiming that a letter saved in 
spelling is saved not once but millions of times every day, he 
expressed during the Second World War the opinion that " if the 
Phoenician alphabet were only turned upside down and enlarged by 
seventeen letters from the Greek alphabet, it would soon pay 
for the war." Nevertheless, it has worked quite well through the 

If mankind should want to erect a monument in honour of the 
illustrious inventor of script the identification of that genius 
would be impossible. Not one unknown and unsung individual 

23 6 


could possibly claim to be the originator of this achievement. 
We may say, however, that the priesthoods of the high cultures 
had a large part in the development and perfection of their 
countries' respective scripts. The knowledge of the art of writing, 
the ability to transcribe the spoken or memorized word in a 
permanent fashion^, meant power a power skilfully used by 
all those who executed political authority throughout the course 
of history. With this knowledge a new age began. History was 
now recorded. The traditions, the laws, and the creeds, the 


Mu, for 'tree' or 'wood' 

After Wiese 

Ren, for 'man' 

formerly memorized standard works of knowledge and of literature, 
could be put down in writing, to be preserved in the libraries 
of the rulers and in the temples. The average citizen, however, 
was excluded from the knowledge of script, which was reserved 
for the priests and the state and its servants. 

The material which preserved the manifestations of this new 
art played a very important role. Plates of burned clay, used 
by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, were among the earliest 
book materials. The Egyptians used papyrus, and bundled palm 
leaves were the Indian equivalent. The use of the stems of the 
papyrus shrub (Cyperus), cut and glued and rolled into * books,' 
was known in Egypt as far back as the third millennium B.C. 
Since about 1400 B.C. parchment or raw hide (chemically depilated 
and softened, then smoothed with brimstone) was used as * writing 
paper.' This new material made the scroll-shaped * books' obsolete, 
and led to the introduction of the present form of quadrangular 



Parchment was a very costly material, and therefore some of 
the old texts were blotted out with sponges, and the raw hide 
was scraped and used again for literary documents. This thrifty 
habit has enabled modern science to decipher older 'layers of 
writing on such palimpsests (from the Greek palin psestos, 
1 scraped off'). It has led to the discovery of many very ancient 


3000 B.C. About 2000 B.C. 1000-600 B.C. New Babylonian 

(Hammurabi) (Assyrian) (Nebuchadnezzar) 

/\ /\ 

Top row: The syllable an meaning 'star/ 'God/ 'heaven/ 'above ' 
Centre row: The syllable kur, mat, or shad, meaning 'mountains/ 'land* 
Bottom row : Pictorial symbol and script characters meaning ' dagger ' 

After Brunnow 

manifestations of knowledge, among them a palimpsest in the 
British Museum on which a Syrian text of the eleventh century 
was written over a Roman text of the ninth century which, in 
turn, covered a seventh-century manuscript by Granius Licianus 
in Unzial script. 

The importance of the material in the evolution of the book 
is indicated by the fact that the Latin liber means ' inner bark ' 
or * bast ' and that the Greek biblos stands for * papyrus/ the 
material on which their ' books ' were written. 

The preciousness of the materials and the painful procedure 
of writing and copying books by hand made the possession of a 
book a privilege enjoyed by very few people. Only the invention 


of paper and the art of printing opened the road towards a wide 
distribution of the cherished texts. It was probably the Chinese 
who invented paper, during the second century A.D., and in this 
case even the name of the genius has been recorded. Ts'ai Lun 
was the name of the man who used bark, rags, hemp, and fishing- 
nets for his first experiments. Through Chinese prisoners of 
war, the knowledge of paper came, during the eighth century 
A.D., to Turkestan. A government paper plant was founded 
in Baghdad in 794. The knowledge of how to make % paper 
migrated with the Arabs to Europe where, in 1340, the first paper 
mill was established at Fabriano in Italy. The added invention 
of printing, about one hundred years later, opened the road for 
the slogan " Knowledge for all ! " and marks the beginning of the 
book in our present sense. 

While the main task of the book was, and is, the distribution 
of knowledge, art, or entertainment, it did not primarily serve 
as a medium of news communication. The use of the printed 
word for the purpose of spreading the news came not until 
the sixteenth century, with the religious ' Relations ' and the 
pamphlets of the Reformation. The first periodically published 
newspapers date back to 1609 ; they appeared in Augsburg and 
Strasbourg. Significantly enough, the ancient Anglo-Saxon word 
getidan and German Zeitung, both terms for the newspaper, mean 
' news/ 

With the development of the newspaper, and the growing urge 
to get the news in the quickest fashion possible, came the develop- 
ment of the news services, from the horseback express messenger 
who * rode post ' to our modern news agencies and their magic 
slave, the electric spark. And, indeed, electricity in one form 
or another, be it as radar, television, or radio telegraph and radio 
broadcasting, is to-day the servant for ear and eye alike ; and 
acoustic and optic means of communication are now equally 
efficacious. Primitive man could not muster such magic. 

But even to-day, besides these super-refined systems of modern 
news communication, our civilization has maintained many 
methods of the oldest times, for instance, the rockets shooting 
the S O S of shipwrecked sailors into the skies. Railway, military, 
and naval optical signals still remind us of the smoke-and-fire 
language, and the reflection signals of the primitives. The fog- 
horn and the Morse alphabet are kindred to the sound codes 
of the drums of the wilderness. The radio message speaks but 
to the majority of the global population it is nothing but just 
another new devilish device of the white man. 


Education without Books 

EDUCATION is ONE of the key words of our time. A man without 
an education, many of us believe, is an unfortunate victim of 
adverse circumstances deprived of one of the greatest twentieth- 
century opportunities. Convinced of the importance of education, 
modern states * invest ' in institutions of learning to get back 
' interest ' in the form of a large group of enlightened young men 
and women who are potential leaders. Education, with its cycles 
of instruction so carefully worked out, punctuated by text-books 
those purchasable wells of wisdom what would civilization be like 
without its benefits ? 

So much is certain : that we would have doctors and preachers, 
lawyers and defendants, marriages and births but our spiritual 
outlook would be different. We would lay stress on < facts and 
figures ' and more on a good memory, on applied psychology, 
and on the capacity of a man to get along with his fellow-citizens. 
If our educational system were fashioned after its bookless past 
we would have the most democratic form of ' college ' imaginable. 
Among the people whom we like to call savages all knowledge 
inherited by tradition is shared by all ; it is taught to every member 
of the tribe so that in this respect everybody is equally equipped 
for life. 

It is the ideal condition of the ' equal start ' which only our most 
progressive forms of modern education try to regain. In primitive 
cultures the obligation to seek and to receive the traditional in- 
struction is binding on all. There are no * illiterates ' if the term 
can be applied to peoples without a script while our own compul- 
sory school attendance became law in Germany in 1642, in France 
in 1806, and in England in 1876, and is still non-existent in a 
number of * civilized ' nations. This shows how long it was before 
we deemed it necessary to make sure that all our children could 
share in the knowledge accumulated by the ' happy few ' during 
the past centuries. 

Education in the wilderness is not a matter of monetary means. 
All are entitled to an equal start. There is none of the hurry 
which, in our society, often hampers the full development of a 
growing personality. There, a child grows up under the ever- 
present attention of his parents ; therefore the jungles and the 
savannahs know of no * juvenile delinquency.' No necessity of 



making a living away from home results in neglect of children, and 
no father is confronted with his inability to * buy ' an education for 
his child. 

In his perfect individual freedom the man of nature shares with 
the members of the animal kingdom the privilege of passing on to 
his offspring the skills necessary for survival. Close contact with 
his animal brethren shows him the Australian koala bear teaching 
its young how to climb the eucalyptus, their tree of life. He 
observes the raccoon mother patiently showing her baby the dainty 
art of washing food before eating it ; he watches the seal in the role 
of swimming instructor for its child. In similar ways he instructs 
his own offspring. Even if these skills are mere physical necessities 
of life and cannot be included in the term * education/ as we 
understand it, they undoubtedly have spiritual value. 

There is not a single people on earth where the effort of education 
does not embrace a twofold aim : the teaching of the technical 
inheritance of the particular society for the sake of making a liveli- 
hood, and, more important and more painstakingly pursued, the 
endeavour to provide the child, the adolescent, the young man or 
woman, with a proper appreciation of the ethical, intellectual, and 
religious values that hold their community together. The means 
by which these aims are achieved are as manifold as the shades of 
human skin and the number of dialects spoken on this earth. By 
this feeling of responsibility, even primitive man demonstrates his 
superiority over the lower beings around him. That the spoken 
word rather than the printed book is his manual of instruction does 
not matter ; there are no professional teachers yet, but mother or 
father or revered old man are the able helmsmen steering the boat 
of instruction through the great stream of tradition. 

For what kind of world do the peoples without written history 
prepare their sons and daughters ? While their world may lack 
most of the gadgets which we consider progressive, in many respects 
it is much richer, more involved, more complicated than the 
normated and specialized forms of the modern civilized world. The 
closer a society is to the cradle of mankind, the older, the farther 
removed, are its conceptions from the specialized distinctions of 
present-day thinking. 

There are no border-lines to separate the visible world from the 
invisible the pebble, the rock, the moon, the stars, the plants, and 
the animals are animated partners of man, carriers of friendly or 
of hostile forces that require continuous watching, tending, and 
conjuring. The mere handling of even the tools of everyday 
routine, the digging stick or the grinding slab, the animal trap or 



the carrying basket, may require the observance of certain tradi- 
tional laws of respect or taboo which may seem superfluous to us. 
But to the children of nature they are as real as the grains of the 
wild grass, as night and day, as fish and fowl. The non-observance 
of one such vital yet unwritten rule might cause peril for the entire 


Montagnais-Naskapi, Labrador 

Photo Julius E. Lips 

community in a society where the whole tribe is often responsible 
for one offensive act committed by one of its members. 

The Zuni, for instance, respect all objects as ho'i or 'living 
persons ' ; the Californian Tiibatulabal would not dare to dig a 
sacred Jimson-weed (Datura meteloides) root without honouring it 
with a short, respectful address ; and woe would befall the whole 
tribe of the Creeks if one of their girls or women should dare to 
leave her monthly ' lunar retreat' before the proper time had 
elapsed. This fact, that the neglect or abuse of sacred rules by one 
single person may endanger the safety of all, makes education 
among primitive peoples a vital issue for the entire group. The 
hazards of nature and the revengeful attitude of countless threatening 


spirits make it a necessity to raise the tribe's offspring in an 
attitude of awe and of responsibility unknown in our less hazardous 
form of civilization. 

Therefore, education in carefulness and respect cannot begin too 
early. As soon as the painstakingly observed rites accompanying 
each birth and name-giving are over and the physical life of the new 
baby seems safe his cradle and his body are protected by charms, 
prayers, and good wishes. But his developing soul is watched even 
more carefully, and it is gradually impregnated with the wisdom of 
olden times. From his earliest days, the child is carried about by 
his mother while she collects firewood, works on the plantation, and 
during the manufacture of household articles. Whether he rides 
her hips, as in Africa, or sees the world from her back in one of the 
ingenious Indian baby carriers, he has a part in all her activities, 
and soon his little fingers will stretch out to grasp the tools she 
handles. His wide-eyed stare will accompany her movements at 
sacred dances, her handling of ceremonial objects, and her con- 
versations on the powers of the dead. 

At this tender age the primitive child is entirely his mother's. 
She loves him dearly, and calls him pet names. Even his sur- 
roundings are arranged im a sensitive and significant way. The 
Chicksaw Indians of Oklahoma like to bed their male babies on 
panther skins to benefit them with the cunning, strength, and vigour 
of that superior animal, while they choose for their little girls a 
layette of fawn or buffalo calves' skins to make them gentle and shy. 
Any emphasis on physical punishment of small children is almost 
unknown among primitive peoples, although there are other methods 
on record of how to stun a child into obedience for disciplinary 
purposes. Among such harmless practices is the habit among the 
African Pangwe of having men and older boys set a bull roarer 
into action outside the abode. Its * voice ' is interpreted to the 
small fry as that of a mighty spirit, Ebzibongo, the Child Eater. 
Another device for the same purpose is beating the soil with a 
wooden pole, accompanying this by the sombre murmur : " The 
bad man ... he has arrived. . . ." These methods furnish the 
child with an early appreciation of the powers of the unknown. 
The Chippewa Indians have a similar idea : they frighten dis- 
obedient children by telling them that a bear's paw will " come and 
get them." 

Sometimes the threat comes true, and an old stuffed moccasin, 
navigated by a stick from the outside, slowly appears in the tent as 
the * bear's paw,' to the horror of the little offenders. In severe 
cases an occasional slap may become necessary, but hardly ever any 


substantial beatings or whippings. A strange manner of disciplin- 
ing a naughty child is customary among the Creek Indians : the 
mother scratches his legs and thighs with a sharp, two-toothed 
gar-fish jaw-bone until blood appears. The explanation given for 
this seemingly cruel practice centres in the belief that such bleeding 
of a child has more sanitary than disciplinary advantage. There is 
no need to say that all primitive peoples train their children in the 
tribe's standards of bodily cleanliness. This training is especially 
rigid among many Indian and Eskimo tribes whose children partici- 
pate from their earliest years in the customs of steam bathing and 
of frequent dips in rivers, even if the ice has to be broken first. 

Just as with our children, example is the first teacher. This 
holds especially true when it comes to the concepts of tact, decency, 
and etiquette, which are generally of a very involved nature. The 
sense of shame, for instance, is by no means inborn in man, and its 
utterances change surprisingly all over the globe. The little Nor- 
Papua girl of New Guinea, for instance, is by no means embarrassed 
by her nakedness, but her face will get very red indeed if someone 
catches her without the kerchief that is supposed to dangle from 
her head. Some African and South American tribes maintain the 
same innocence concerning their complete lack of clothing, but to 
be seen while eating is considered an outrageous offence. 

The otherwise more than liberal West African Pangwe have the 
word oson (sense of shame) continually on their lips and in their 
minds, and they hate the white explorer for not understanding such 
fine hints as " I have to run for firewood/' or, " I look for the trap/' 
which their feeling for oson forces them to invent when the urge 
of nature comes. It is one of the Pangwe 's main practices while 
visiting another village to ask tactfully, " Where is the way to the 
village master ? " or, " If I should be persecuted, whereto would I 
have to turn ? " all circumlocutions of the shunned word eduk, or 
' out-house/ which no well-bred Pangwe will ever utter. 

The feeling of tactfulness is extended even to the birds. The 
ancestors of the Yamana of Tierra del Fuego once insulted the very 
sensitive Laxuwa-bird (to them " the first robin of spring") by 
their joyous shouts, " Spring is here ! There flies a Laxuwa ! " 
whereupon the offended messenger of spring sent them snow and 
ice to kill many people. If he flies by nowadays people stand in 
silent respect to honour his shyness. 

The very involved greeting customs require even more care, since 
their non-observance may cause bad luck, illness, or even war. 
Some tribes cower until a stranger is close enough to recognize 
their peaceful attitude ; others humiliate themselves by kneeling or 


throwing themselves flat on the soil. Hat, shoes, or other parts of 
the attire are taken off ; or respect may require the avoiding of the 
other's eye, or even the turning of one's back in his direction. 
Many primitives consider it rude to address a stranger, and they 
invite him silently into the abode to feed him ; only after he has 
rested are the first greetings exchanged. When Stefansson visited 
a strange tribe in the Mackenzie district a large crowd assembled 
from which each individual tribesman stepped forth to introduce 
himself with the words : " I am So-and-so. I am well disposed. 
I have no knife. Who are you ? " One of the most popular 
greetings is the rubbing of noses, not only as a form of salute but 
also as a supreme expression of affection. The Miskito of Honduras 
rub their bodies with their noses, calling this * to hear the scent/ 
and the reporting explorer adds : " Our manner of kissing is 
abhorred and looked upon as a mild form of cannibalism." 

All these customs are habitually taken in by the baby, and soon 
become part of his behaviour without further teaching. The age 
between infancy and adolescence is regarded by many primitives as 
partly irresponsible, partly angelic. A child simply cannot commit 
a crime. His wrong- doings are easily forgiven. To many West 
African tribes a child is " an earlier stage of human existence, as the 
caterpillar, that pre- development of a butterfly," as Tessmann puts 
it. Dividing mankind into two groups, the * good/ bebin, and the 
' bad/ bongus, the Pangwe do not hesitate to classify the children 
among the bebin. The same explorer tells of twenty-year-old young 
men who tried to excuse their wrongs by claiming that they were 
'just children ' and therefore * good/ That this conception is not 
regarded as paradoxical also among other tribes is evidenced by the 
fact that the Koyemci clowns of the holy Zuni ceremonies, although 
played by grown men, are considered * mythological children/ 

When the golden age of early childhood is passed we find a 
stronger tendency in the boys to stick to their fathers and to imitate 
their actions as trappers, hunters, warriors, fishermen, or whatever 
they may be. This natural hero-worship leads them to the manu- 
facture of small-sized tools and weapons fashioned exactly after the 
objects handled by their fathers. Tiny traps for grasshoppers or 
mice work efficiently after the principle which catches the father's 
full-sized game ; fishing devices, plantation tools, game bags, 
crossbows, drums, and numerous other ' toys ' are most efficient 
demonstrative material of the ways of a future tribesman, and 
gradually the different trades, inventions, and industries of the band 
are mastered by the growing boy under the eyes of his father and 
his friends. 


The same holds true for the girls who, playfully first, later 
spurred by ambition, imitate their mothers' moccasin-making, 
manioc-roasting, acorn-gathering, spinning, weaving, and cosmetic 
tricks until they have acquired full knowledge of these skills. There 
is not one tribe known where the parents do not encourage their 
children's efforts in this respect with continuous teachings about 
the origin of these trades and skills, the mythical forefathers who 
introduced them to the tribe, the animal spirits connected with 
them, the supernatural beings on whose grace success depends, 
and all the wealth of their beliefs and their traditions. 

Gradually the children thus leave the ' angelic ' age of innocence 
to enter the state of awkwardness known as adolescence. And just 
as in our society, they are now given to mischief, and undergo the 
first spells of the instability so typical of their age. Their games 
become at times less innocent, and the ethical standards of their 
group are well reflected in their actions. They may become ex- 
tremely shy and restrained, or they may imitate their parents' 
actions in too realistic a way at an age when they are supposed to 
remain in a state of infantile purity. 

The children of many West African tribes, of New Guinea, and 
of Melanesia, develop very early ini this respect, while others 
publicly pretend an innocence that is no longer theirs. This con- 
duct, half childish still, may also lead to blasphemous imitations of 
the most sacred customs of their own people. While their parents 
preserve the skulls of the ancestors ceremoniously in holy barrels of 
wood, crowned by revered wood carvings, the Pangwe children keep 
monkeys' skulls in small containers of palm marrow to imitate with 
them the sacred skull dances held by their parents in times of stress. 

At this age the growing children often experience a change of 
attitude on the part of their elders. Not all their pranks are readily 
excused ; they encounter impatience and a certain intolerance 
because of their status of not yet belonging to the ' inner circle.' 
Deprived of the advantages of childhood, they still find themselves 
excluded from the privileges enjoyed by the grown-ups, the 

This condition is made use of by their families ; they are expected 
to take care of certain disagreeable duties, and are bossed around 
by their elder brothers, while the men do not allow their participa- 
tion in * grown-up' affairs. Under no circumstances, for instance, 
may a boy of the Euahlayi tribe, not yet formally accepted into 
manhood, kindle the fire which is considered the essence of virile 
vitality. In the olden times of American history the young men 
of the Creeks were " obliged to light pipes, bring wood, and help to 


cook black-drink for the warriors, and perform all menial services 
of the public square." Swan, the old author, claims that such 
treatment " stimulates them to push abroad, and at all hazards 
obtain a scalp, or as they term it, bring in the hair," because only 
after this achievement were they regarded as men. 


Kiari, New Guinea 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

When the young men and women reach physical maturity most 
tribes take official note of this fact by accepting them ceremoniously 
into the community. It is the exception rather than the rule when 
no official initiation rituals take place, as Turquetil claims of the 
Eskimo of Hudson's Bay and Voegelin of the Californian Tiibatu- 
labal, although we learn that, in the latter case, the young girls 
were instructed " in womanly matters " by their mothers and grand- 
mothers and that old men " often lectured " to the male youth 
" about hunting customs and how they were to behave." And in 
the first case we are told that after they reach maturity the girls' 


attire was changed into that of women. They now wore caps on 
their heads. 

Whether or not a formal celebration, a ' confirmation ' similar to 
the one known in our high-culture religions, actually takes place, 
the practical instruction in the technical skills of the forefathers 
and the ethical and religious knowledge of the tribe the instruction 
in civics, social behaviour, mutual assistance, and all the necessary 
' do's and dont's ' are completed at the age of physical maturity, 
and the young tribesman or woman can now safely be regarded a 
full-fledged member of the community. If a ' graduation ' takes 
place it is always preceded by a special period of instruction in 
which educational, physical, and mystical conceptions are pressed 
into a rigidly followed scheme the ritual of the initiation 

Much has been said and written about this most important ritual 
by which the young man or woman of the jungle, the deserts, and 
the bush is accepted into the community of his or her people. 
Among the best interpreters of the facts is the Swiss scientist, 
Speiser. According to him, the deepest meaning of the primitive 
initiation is a communion with the most important foodstuffs of 
the tribe. These vital sources of subsistence are in the trust of 
certain mystical powers which yield their gifts only to those who 
have earned the privilege by undergoing the sacred rites of the 
initiation. As a child, the boy was fed by his parents. On the 
threshold of manhood he has to earn the benevolence of the mighty 
trustees of fertility before he is allowed to share their gifts. In the 
age between childhood and initiation he is not allowed to touch the 
all-important foods ; to him they are taboo. 

In the oldest cultures the sacred powers, the trustees of the 
important foods, are the ancestors, which explains in part the 
ancestor worship taken over by so many of the ancient high cultures. 
In the agricultural societies the ' fertility demons ' are considered 
trustees of the sacred possessions, although the ancestors still act as 
intermediaries between them and mortals. It is the ancestors who 
help the novice to win their graces ; it is they who add to the gifts 
of food the physical powers of adulthood. To win these powers 
the child has to die, the adult individual has to be born a fact 
which is symbolically performed at all initiation ceremonies. This 
line of thinking results in the programme of the initiation period : 
the beginning of the food taboos ; the kidnapping of the ' child ' 
by the spirits of the dead ; the preparation period for the com- 
munion : seclusion, instruction in the laws of food and its prepara- 
tion, with the * spirits ' serving as instructors ; physical invigoration 


of the boy to bring about his maturity ; communion under 
the assistance of a * ghost/ a representative of the dead ; lifting 
of the food taboos ; acceptance of the novice as a full-grown 

But not boys alone undergo the ceremonies. In the oldest 
cultures, where the hunt (pursued by the men) and the gathering 
of vegetal food (taken care of by the women) are of equal importance 
or the economic survival of the tribe, both sexes undergo the 
ceremonies separately, with equal vigour. In the agricultural 
stage, in which the importance of cultivated plants is paramount, 
the initiation rites of the female sex overshadow the importance of 
the * graduation ' of the boys. 

When boys undergo the ceremonies they have to demonstrate to 
the community that they are in full possession of the qualities that 
make a man. Tests of individual courage are obligatory ; and the 
symbolic death of childhood often results in actual martyrdom. 
The long periods of intellectual and physical preparation take place 
in seclusion in the wilderness, far removed from the comforts of 
home and from the presence of the other sex. Under the leadership 
of older men who play for them the roles of the spirits they undergo 
their rigid ordeal. The fin^l climax is the revelation of the mystical 
origin secrets never revealed to the women. Only then are they 
ready for the holy communion. 

There is no fixed age which would determine the exact moment 
when a boy is considered ready for his graduation he may be nine 
or ten, fifteen or sixteen, years old. Sometimes he has to wait 
until a suitable group has been assembled for the mutual instruc- 
tion ; in other cases climatic or food conditions may; delay or speed 
up the great event. 

What, now, are these ceremonies actually like ? Since these 
sanctified traditions belong to the holiest possessions of any tribe 
and since their very nature is one of utter secrecy it is extremely 
difficult to gain reliable facts on the actual procedure. The rites 
are almost inaccessible to any non-tribesman and, of course, to most 
explorers. Only such scientists as have enjoyed years of most 
intimate contact with the natives and who possess, at the same time, 
the proper anthropological background, are in a position to reveal 
to us the secrets of the initiation rites. Men like the British ex- 
plorer, Howitt, who himself underwent the initiation rites of the 
south-east Australian Kurnai, and Gusinde, who lived for many 
years with and among the Selk'nam at the southernmost tip of the 
South American continent in Tierra del Fuego and was finally 
accepted into their tribal community, have furnished us with 



factually correct descriptions. Gusinde's experiences among the 
Selk'nam are a vivid example. 

After proper contemplation by the revered old men of the tribe, 
a date is set to relieve them of their * heavy obligation ' : to reveal 
to the new male generation the fundamental secrets of their people's 
history and to bestow 
upon them the privileges 
derived therefrom. No 
age limit is set, the only 
requirements being suffi- 
cient mental maturity, a 
proper attitude of digni- 
fied restraint towards the 
other sex, will - power, 
and, most of all, the 
ability to keep the en- 
trusted secrets. The old 
men say : " We observe 
a fellow whether he can 
hold his tongue ; whether 
he has distanced himself 
from childish play, and 
whether he masters our 
trades. If he does not 
live up to our expecta- 
tions we let him wait for 
the next rites." If he 
meets the requirements 
he is accepted as a klotek, 

Selk'nam, Tierra del Fuego 
After M. Gusinde 


or candidate. As soon 
as the group of boys has 
been selected their prin- 
cipal tutor is chosen the father of the oldest participant. After 
this, the wise men agree on the proper locality : it must be com- 
pletely secluded, preferably on the outskirts of a forest, separated 
by a large pampa from the camp, and near a beach with an abun- 
dant guanaco and wild-goose supply to provide for the feeding of 
the group. On the wooded fringe a roomy hut, the ha'in, is erected 
as a home for the candidates. They say good-bye to their families ; 
the women are crying and weeping. Their entire bodies painted 
red, the kttteks follow their leader, * trembling with fear,' to be 
escorted to the ha* in. 

Immediately a masked ghost appears, known to the novices since 


childhood days as the fierce Soorte y who now challenges an indi- 
vidual kldtek in a wrestling match. When the latter breaks down 
from exhaustion, the perspiration of fear on his forehead, he is asked 
by the assembled men to lift with his own hands So6rte's mask 
under which he recognizes to his amazement the familiar face of a 
fellow-tribesman. He is advised that the now shattered miscon- 
ception of his younger years, to believe Soorte a ghost, was just one 
of the clever devices with which women and children are kept in awe 
and respect. The betrayer of this secret is doomed to immediate 

The daily routine of a klotek is extremely severe. The position 
of his body while in the sacred hut is rigidly prescribed. He must 
neither speak nor laugh ; his eyes have to be fixed on the ground. 
His food is kept to a minimum ; he is allowed very little sleep-. 
His days and many of his nights are spent on long excursions 
through the woods and over the mountains, always under the 
leadership of an older man. To improve his ability with bow and 
arrow he must regularly practise target shooting, and when he 
comes home, all worn out, he has to listen in the prescribed stiff 
position to the instructions in civics and history. 

The following topics are the main subjects of his courses : 
" industriousness, dependability, respect for older persons, obedi- 
ence, altruism, readiness to assist others, sociability, and marital 
faithfulness." After these rudimentary subjects have been dealt 
with in full detail he is ready for the revelation of the mythological 
secrets of his tribe. He learns that all ' ghosts/ in whose identity 
as supernatural beings the women and children firmly believe, are 
the men of the tribe, who wear masks on their heads and paint their 
bodies red, white, and black. The dominating figures among them 
are Xdlpen described as < female ' to add to the confusion of the 
women and her ' husband,' Soorte. 

It may take months before the climax of the training period is 
reached. This is the revelation of the origin myth, the holiest 
secret of the Selk'nam tribe, which is narrated by the most venerable 
of the old men and begins with the words : " In the olden times, 
sun and moon, stars and winds, mountains and rivers walked on 
earth in human shape, so as we do to-day. . . ." This myth reveals 
the former predominance of the women of the tribe and how they 
betrayed the man, the men's revolt (in the course of which sun and 
moon and animals took their present shape and fled to their present 
places), and the men's resolution to invent for their own future 
protection the sagas of the masked ghosts who are now played by 
the men themselves. The betrayer of the secret will be killed on 


the spot but it is never necessary. The Selk'nam men have kept 
their secret through the centuries, and they are keeping it to-day 
when they step out in the full moon during the final nights of the 
rites to walk slowly and ceremoniously over the pampa from their 
sacred hut, accompanied by new fellow-keepers of the secret, the 
former kldteks, watched from afar by the awed women. 

Whipping a Boy Candidate 
After Dorsey-Voth 

When we consider that the Selk'nam are among the most primi- 
tive tribes known we may well be amazed at their deep sincerity 
and their emphasis on civic virtues. Compared with our more 
' encyclopaedic ' form of schooling, which lays much less stress on 
moral values, this type of education does not seem ' savage ' at all. 
The Australian experiences of Howitt among another tribe of 
hunters and food gatherers are similarly impressive. 

All tribes that feature initiation rites consider the moment when 
the innermost mythological secrets of origin are revealed as the 
holy climax. The Zuni Indian novices, for instance, learn at this 
moment the ' true ' story of their own sacred connexions with the 


ancient Katcina masks which appear at their annual feasts of 
fertility. These * divine ' masks are handed down from generation 
to generation. 

Thus many of the mystical phenomena which we are inclined to 
interpret as mere fables or tales these stories of the sacred masks, 
for example take the place in primitive minds of religion, of 
history, and of ethical example. They are as real to them as the 
stories of the Magna Carta or of the American Pilgrim Fathers are 
to us. Indeed, the intensity of their influence is much Stronger 
because the ancestor spirits and the forces of nature still move 
about among primitive people and may intrude upon any individual 
destiny at any time. They are revengeful if blasphemously 
challenged ; they can bring all the blessings of nature if correctly 
revered ; and they are alive a faculty which can never be assumed 
by even the most powerful figures prominent in our own history. 

No wonder, then, that the moment of cognition is so important 
in every man's life. The fact that the sacred shapes are imitated 
by mortals does not in any way diminish their godlike qualities. 

Some initiation rites emphasize the death-and-resurrection motif 
in a most extreme way. Often the candidates are painted white 
from head to toe to indicate that, for the time of their seclusion, 
they are no longer regarded as living human beings (their childhood 
is dead) ; that they are ghost-like creatures until they will be reborn 
as men in the final communion with the ancestral spirits or the 
fertility demons. But before they reach that goal not only are their 
minds stunned by revelations, but their bodies hav^e to endure 
actual torture. 

Of an especially cruel nature in this respect was the annual 
initiation rite of the Man dan Indians which culminated' in the fear- 
some pohk-hong or hook-swinging. The candidates' skin was 
incised to allow the application of skewers by an officiant who was 
masked in order to conceal his identity from the novices. Heavy 
buffalo skulls were attached to these skewers. The details of the 
ordeal itself have been vividly described by MacLeod : 

The Mandan lodge has four centre poles. Each victim has 
ropes attached to his skewers, and with these he is raised on one 
of the four poles, suspended in the air. He is naked, but in his 
hand carries his medicine bag ; and his shield is hung from one 
of his skewers. When suspended, he is then twirled around on 
his own axis by an attendant. In the course of the twirling he 
faints. Then the onlookers cry " Dead," and he is lowered and 
laid on the ground. No one will assist a fainted hook-swinger. 
He is left to lie where he fell outside of the sacred lodge until he dies 



(which very rarely happens) or until he revives. It is considered 
by the celebrants that in the first case the Great Spirit takes him ; 
in the other case, the Spirit returns him to life. 

As though this were not enough the revived candidate makes an 
additional offering to the Great Spirit by sacrificing the little finger 
on his left hand. 

Of almost equal cruelty is the Pangwe custom of torturing the 

Pangwe, West Africa 
After G. Tessmann 

secluded candidates by exposing them to the sting of especially 
vicious ants two hundred nests of which have been brought to the 
lodge and to the blister-raising hairs of poisonous pods. This too 
is accompanied by the shouting of " We kill you ! " whereupon 
the candidates start their period of seclusion, naked, their bodies 
painted the white colour of death. Their sex organs concealed by 
small, feather- trimmed covers, they play a special kind of xylophone 
to shun away all possible human witnesses. When they finally 
emerge as accepted men their bodies are painted red to signify the 
joy of resurrection and the vigour of life. 

Boundless indeed is the imagination that creates such means of 
torture. Among these are the Nilotic Nuer custom of incising the 


candidates' foreheads from one ear to another ; the piercing of 
their membra with sharp leaves of grass and whipping with thorny 
shrubs, both customary among the Nor-Papua of New Guinea ; and 
the very widespread practice of circumcision or incision at this age, 
which some scholars interpret as a * symbolic castration ' and which, 
in turn, means nothing else but another form of temporary death. 

After the graduation the young man feels indeed like another 
person. The continuous fasting, learning, suffering, the shattering 
of his childhood world by the revelation of the mystical tribal 
secrets, and the feeling of having survived the tests and tortures 
provide him with a feeling of pride in his manhood that will never 
leave him for the rest of his life. In the light of this pride he will 
raise his son and he will do all he can to provide him with the 
necessary training to make him ready for the most important 
experience to come : his initiation. 

There exists, as we see, no evidence of co-education among 
primitive peoples. The rigid nature of the tests, the entirely 
different branches of knowledge usually offered to boys and to girls, 
the sexual rules, and, most of all, the magic implications of the 
curriculum of the jungle college do not allow a mixed attendance. 
Both sexes have their lifelong-kept secrets which are the very 
essence of tribal power ; and these secrets require strict isolation 
of the males and females during the soul- and body-shaping 
initiation rites. 

Since the advent of mental maturity in girls is paralleled by a 
clearly defined physical event the first menstruation is chosen by 
many tribes as the signal to acknowledge their coming of age. A 
principal custom known all over the world is the seclusion of girls, 
as well as of married or single women, in small isolated huts, where 
they have to take care of themselves in complete retirement during 
their regular monthly periods. They eat from special dishes, using 
separate tools and gadgets (which are often burned after use), and 
emerge, when the days of seclusion are over, after a bath of puri- 
fication and in new clothing all of which may also signify a long 
sequence of symbolical deaths and resurrections which last as long 
as their years of fitness. Strictest isolation from the male sex 
during this period is not only a custom but a sacred law, and any 
violation would bring sickness or death to* the offender and to the 
community as a whole. 

The first such event is regarded as a joyous one, and many tribes, 
especially in Africa, celebrate it with song and dance, like the 
Kpando of Togo who honoured a girl by the name of Dzodzeafefoe 
with this ditty : 



Fresh vegetable ! Fresh vegetable ! Dzodzeafefoe celebrates her 
puberty. I went to see her. Her father is wealthy, and so is her 
mother. A chicken had to diethey cooked it for her. And ocro- 
pulp was prepared all in her honour ! 

Vanyemba Tribe, Ngongo, Central Angola 
Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago 

In New Guinea a girl's first menstruation is an occasion for 
showering her with gifts like a new loin-cloth, bracelets, and 
necklaces made of precious dog-teeth. Before receiving these 
presents, however, the girl has to undergo lengthy courses in 
' civics ' and ' home economics/ culminating in the painful incision 


of the holy moon-symbol in her breasts and a ceremony at the 
lagoon. There, the candidates have to lie down in the shallow 
water while the old women walk over their outstretched bodies. 
The ' theoretical ' courses given at these occasions may require a 
month or more, as among the Mbaya Indians of Paraguay, where 
the mother acts as teacher after her daughter's first sign of physical 
maturity. Proper notice is taken of the event among most North 
American Indian tribes, too. Among the Apache, the girls' initia- 
tion rites are more elaborate than the boys'. After being pursued 
by her tribal sisters, the candidate has to endure a beating and a 
stiff examination, after which she has to dance on a new blanket to 
the sound of a drum, chased by clowns and demons. 

With the rising importance of feminine influence in the agri- 
cultural mother-right cultures, this milestone in a girPs life the 
reaching of maturity assumed much larger proportions than was 
the case in older societies. West Africa especially is the home 
of most elaborate puberty rites for girls. Their initial stay in the 
* college ' of preparation for adult life can grow into a permanent 
attachment to the established women's secret societies which, on 
occasion, may take the law into their own hands to discipline and 
terrorize the male population of the region. The more powerful 
such feminine organizations are, the more rigid are the preparatory 

In the Jevhe * finishing schools ' of the Gold Coast and the Slave 
Coast the entering novice begins the courses with the shaving off 
of all body hairs. After a cold bath her entire skin is rubbed with a 
ceremonial oil. She discards her former clothing to receive a 
special garb of white cotton furnished by the priest. As another 
symbol of the * death ' of her former existence, she is obliged to 
assume a new name (the use of the old would result in severe 

She even has to study and to adopt a new language (Agbuigbe, 
the secret tongue of all club members), and to learn a new set of 
rules of etiquette. Greeting her superiors, she has to fall down on 
her knees, clapping her hands in a special quaint rhythm. Older 
women give her daily singing lessons, and she is taught the finer 
points of spinning, and of the weaving of mats and baskets, until 
finally she is ready for the knowledge of the composition of secret 
poisons. The stated aim of the rigid training is to kill all natural 
feelings of the girl. * Only when the highest degree of self-control 
seems to have been reached is she allowed to leave the place of 
confinement on short trips to provide the Jevhe household with 
water and firewood. Should she, in the course of these duties, 


accidentally come across a member of her own family, she has to 
treat him as a complete stranger. 

All this is accompanied by threats and by cruel punishment. 
When the Jevhe authorities do finally regard her as ' the finished 
product ' she is allowed to leave the society and to return home as 
a new woman. This great event of the graduation, termed the dede 
lejewe me (dismissal from the Jevhe) or dede ami me (dismissal from 
the oil), is performed by the priest who dedicates her to the new 
life with the blood of a freshly killed chicken and returns her to her 
parents, adorned with colourful flowers and feathers. At home she 
is received with great joy. But for four more months she is not 
allowed to speak her native language, the Jevhe, but has to keep on 
using the secret Agbuigbe exclusively. 

Although her stay at the * college ' of the secret society is merely 
a temporary one, the fact that she becomes one of the enlightened 
remains with her for the rest of her life. The influence of this 
relationship may go even further : she may desire to become one of 
the * professionals/ In this case, she returns and has to undergo 
tests, which may gain her an influential post in the inner circle of 
the secret society. Even if she leaves the league to marry, she can 
at all times appeal to the society to defeAd her rights if, for instance, 
there should be some marital trouble. She always can find a ready 
asylum on the premises of the society, whose authorities will take 
her side and force her husband to pay a substantial ransom if he 
insists upon her return. 

These ' colleges ' existed and will continue to exist long after the 
* finishing course ' is over. By the continued protection they offer 
to their alumnae they increase the women's influence at home 
and within the community to a considerable degree. Hundreds 
of such women's secret societies exist all over Africa, like the 
Niengo Society of Southern Cameroons (a word meaning ' water- 
nymph '), the Lesimu of the Bakoko, and the Sandi of the Vey. 
Most of the women members of these societies are entitled to hide 
their identity while in office by wearing a special type of black 
wooden mask with a carved coiffure of characteristically arranged 
coils. A whole set of costumes and cosmetic tricks go with this 
outfit to accentuate the wearer's * supernatural powers.' 

Among the best known of these secret societies is the Bundu 
Club of Mendiland (Nigeria), which acknowledges three degrees 
of graduation : the novice, or serving dtgba, who also acts as an 
assistant at the religious ceremonies ; the normeh, or Bundu she- 
devil, who executes the decrees of the highest woman official, the 
soweh. While the digba is merely a freshman student, the rest of 





West Africa 

the women assume the authority of a regular Vehmic court. All 

marks of identity hidden under their armour-like black garments, 
hands and faces covered with white grease-paint, 
the carved black mask all over their head, they 
discipline and at times even kill any male adven- 
turer who dares to approach the secret lodge. 
He is rendered numb by the power radiating 
from the soweh's ' magic ' personality. The tres- 
passer who refuses to pay a 
fine may be sold abroad as a 
slave or may be immediately 
put to death if the soweh 
should silently point at him 
with a magic wand. 

This type of education cer- 
tainly leaves its mark on the 
mind of the digba long after 
graduation. It leads to an 
Museum of extreme development of femi- 

Ethnology, Cologne nine authority which, in turn, 
has created a counteraction by 

the men, who also organize into secret societies 

for the purpose of avoiding the presence of the 

no longer weaker sex. They take care to instruct 

the boys properly in these colleges, so that they 

may be prepared to face the hazards of their 

adult years. Also, these educational institutions 

have developed into regular clubs, to which any 

alumnus is always welcome. 

The many political, educational, and social 

powers assumed by these * colleges/ clubs, and 

societies were finally reduced in the high cultures 

with their specialized institutions. The state 

took over the executive powers, while the priests 

led the instruction of the young men and women 

into the more conservative channels of religion. 

Losing their complex character, the secret 

societies were dispersed according to the different elements that com- 
posed them. Their remnants to-day are university * fraternities ' 

and * sororities ' and the countless clubs and leagues throughout 

the world. 

The educational institutions of the high-cultured peoples of the 

past do not differ much from our own, although their wealth of 

West Africa 

Museum of 
Ethnology, Cologne 


subjects, their closely interwoven relationship to religious concep- 
tions, and their much more intensive methods of instruction 
provided a more solid background than most modern endeavours 
can achieve. In the communities of the Incas, Aztecs, and Egyp- 
tians, in the profound views of the mystical teachings of Islam, 
Buddhism, and Lamaism, education could remain on a very high 
level because it was a privilege of classes and castes. The modern 
urge to make money on graduation from school did not exist in the 
small group of the wealthy who took care to keep the rest of their 
population in complete ignorance. At the time of Itzcouatl, the 
fourth king of Mexico, who ruled from 1427 to 1440, a large 
amount of sacred codici were publicly burned because " too many 
copies " had been made and it was deemed dangerous that " too 
many people, especially the serfs," get acquainted with the " black 
and the red " (the latter being a flowery description of the black 
and red scriptures of the codices). 

Thus, knowledge of the written word and the invention of script, 
though beneficial to a few, was not a blessing for all. In the ages 
before the invention of printing knowledge was treated as the 
privilege of a limited class that disdained the * ignoramuses ' and 
kept them away from the knowledge laid down in carved stone, in 
the guarded papyri or, later, on the daintily illuminated mediaeval 
books of raw hide. The Tibetan Secret Book of the Dead contains 
the ancient Lama warning to hide its mysteries from the people 
because, " What good can come from the common man ? " 

What a contrast to the perfectly balanced education of the 
' equal start/ the thoroughly democratic instruction methods of 
primitive man ! What one man wants is the knowledge of all 
and the wisdom of the entire community is at the disposal of every 
single member of the tribe. The development of classes in the 
high cultures destroyed this ideal approach. Education became a 
privilege of the wealthy. There was no longer one undivided force 
of public opinion each class and caste had its own standard of 
thought, of knowledge, and of etiquette ; and the young citizens 
grew up to be different from each other, not to resemble the 
tradition-sanctioned common ideal. 

This social injustice of the educational approach in the high 
cultures, this development of a small group of the educated and a 
large majority of the ignorant, benefited that small and pampered 
group with an education of very high quality. The excellent 
schooling was skilfully furthered by the family in a home full of 
servants. These parents could afford to prepare their children 
wisely for their future positions of leadership. 


This does not mean that this education was not strict and rigid. 
On the contrary, corporal punishment and mortification of the flesh 
were very important items in the curriculum as reminders of the 
earlier initiation rites. In honour of the gods, children and their 
families pierced their tongues with thorns, cut their ears, and 
indulged in all kinds of self-inflicted torture, as the Aztec word for 
midnight, netetequitpan (* the time when one practises self-castiga- 
tion '), implies. Aztec parents considered lying the worst offence. 
The lips of an untruthful child were pierced with thorns, unruly 
boys were whipped with stinging nettles, and the girls who liked to 
spend too much time away from home got their feet shackled. The 
ethical teachings given by parents to their offspring were on a 
very high level. They might, indeed, provide some interesting 
comparisons and contrasts to our own educational principles. 

Among the long series of instructions given by ancient Mexican 
fathers to their sons were the admonitions : 

Honour all who are older than you. Do never blame a man for 
making a mistake you may be the next one to commit an error. If 
some one talks to you listen to him attentively. Never precede 
an older person if you can possibly avoid it. At table, never eat 
and drink before them, but wait with poise. If you receive a 
substantial gift, be not vain about it ; if it is small, don't disregard 
it. Do not let wealth make you arrogant. Never speak an untruth. 
Do not indulge in slanderous talk. Sow no enmities. If you are 
entrusted with an office, do consider first that one might try to 
tempt you with the offer. Do not accept it readily, even if you 
are the best qualified candidate. Accept it only if they urge you 
this gains you their esteem. By all this I try to fortify your heart. 
Don't refuse to accept it readily. Your life's happiness depends 
on it. 

Similar were the mother's words to her daughter : 

Never neglect your spinning and weaving, your sewing and your 
embroideries. Don't sleep too much, and don't recline too long 
in the shade. Relax in the fresh air. Over-sensitiveness creates 
idleness and other vices. Never show that you dislike some kind 
of occupation. If you cannot always fulfil your parents' wishes, 
excuse yourself politely. Do not be too proud of what you own ; 
the gods distribute their gifts according to their wisdom. Have 
no intercourse with disorderly, untruthful, and idle women. Do 
not show yourself too often in the streets and on the market-place. 
Such places can cause your ruin. If you visit your relatives, show 
yourself useful, take a spindle in your hands. That is all for to-day, 
, my daughter ; may the gods bless you. 

So prepared, the young girl could safely visit one of the two types 


of school provided for her : the lyceum, where she attended the 
lessons while living at her parents' house, or the temple school, 
where she boarded under strict supervision, either temporarily, as 
in a finishing school, or, if she chose, for life as a priestess of the gods. 

The education of the young Aztec men was infinitely more 
varied. At the age of twelve or thirteen the training of the sons 
of noble families was taken over by the priests in the priest-house, 
where the main subjects of instruction were, besides the religious 
rites, a rigid physical training, the science of astronomy, and their 
country's history. After graduation they were transferred to the 
sing-and-dance house a most misleading name, for, far from being 
a place of amusement, it was the institution where the young man 
was moulded into a warrior. 

The type of educational pattern varies only in details from that 
of the other high-culture peoples up to the Spartans, whose ideal 
of education was a rigid training in the virtues of sobriety and 

It has taken many centuries to make higher education accessible 
to all. The printed book, the State schools, the professional 
teacher detached from a dominating priesthood all contribute 
towards a realization of the modern ideal of " an equal chance for 
all," thus bringing back the principal aim of education to its 
original roots. 

Nevertheless, although our forms of instruction are richer in 
variety of subjects, we are not always able to equal the efforts of 
early man in the development of spiritual resources. With our 
emphasis on vocational subjects, and the haste to make money 
forced on us by an imperfect social system, truly spiritual stimula- 
tion is only too often absent from the curriculum. Our * rational ' 
explanations of the phenomena of life and of nature deprive the 
modern human soul of many of the best impulses it possessed in 
earlier times. 

Overcoming the ' superstitions ' of the Stone Age, we have lost 
primitive man's intimate relationship with nature, his respect for 
his fellow human being and for members of the animal kingdom. 
It is by no means certain that our ' facts and figures ' are improve- 
ments on early man's closeness to the innermost sources of history 
his recognition and appreciation of the virtues, the destinies, and 
the deeds of those who walked and laboured before us on this 


The Show begins 

FROM EARLIEST TIMES men have regarded play-acting as one of 
the best forms of entertainment. To-day most primitive 
peoples possess a considerable repertoire of plays, ballets, and 
spectacles. * 

The following excerpt is no quotation from a programme of the 
Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo ; it is not meant as an introduction to 
the bourrees, the grandes jetees y and ronds de jambe of ' The Golden 
Cockerel/ It is nothing but part of the text of a show of the 
primitive Papua in the South Seas. 

When To Marmaki, the hero, gave the sign to start all the birds, by 
twos, took their position for the dance. Far in the rear stood two owls, 
in front of them two crows, and in front of them two starlings. Before 
these stood a pair of white-tailed eagles, two hawks, two pigeons, two 
cuckoos, two dwarf parrots, and two cockatoos. Two noble parrots 
made up the first line. f 

The owls opened the dance, waltzing gracefully along the row toward 
the audience. As they passed the musicians with their drums the 
women said : 

" Look at those two ! Who ever could like them with their deep-set 
eyes, surrounded by ugly white fringe?" 

And yet, they were the loveliest owls you could possibly think of! 

As the crows danced along the line the women said : 

" Dear, aren't they pitch-black ? Who would care for them ? " 

But the two birds were really gorgeous crows ! Now, the starlings 
came up and danced. The women, who couldn't be pleased with 
anything, whispered : 

"How ugly they are with their yellow beaks and the few white spots 
on their feather?!" When the proud, white-tailed eagles started, the 
women gossiped : 

" Who can stand their dirty yellowish colour ? " And while the hawks 
danced every one could hear the women chatter : 

" Look ! They have white necks and reddish-brown feathers ! 
Gracious! But they are ugly !" The neat little pigeons followed. 

"Look at those white necks!" shouted the women. "What do they 
think they are doing? Who would want to have them? " 

The cuckoos were the next couple. When they danced in front of 
the crowd the women mocked them: 

"How unattractive you are with your speckled plumage! How 
could anybody like you?" 




After that, the cockatoos and the dwarf parrots went through their 
paces. But the women went on to belittle the graceful movements of 
the birds, and ridiculed the bright colour of their feathers. The only 
pleasure they really enjoyed was their own malicious gossip. 

At the end came the dance of the noble parrots; and the women 
continued to pour abuse also upon their heads. But as soon as they 
lifted their wings their purple- 
lined undersides were displayed. 
This colour was so beautiful that 
the women instantly forgot their 
mockery. The purple feathers 
sparkled like precious stones in 
the sun, and whoever saw them 
wanted to touch them, to make 
sure they were real. The women 
threw away their drums, ran out 
of their row, and tried to cling 
to these noble dancers. This 
frightened the birds. With one 
single wild roar they all unfolded 
their wings and rose into the air. 

This text contains all the 
elements of a real show among 
primitive people dance, masks, 
music, and score. It demon- 
strates their deep artistic feel- 
ing, their aesthetic alertness to 
the effects of the theatre, their un- 
usual sense of characterization, 
of colour, and of individuality. 
It has a pointed dialogue and 
a purpose ; it also shows how 
the spectators participate in the play. 

Despite an evolution through the millenniums, despite the 
stage tricks of modern super-technique, .despite the play-bills 
quoting scores of ' back-stage ' assistants, neither the theatre in 
general nor the drama in particular has changed in its essential 
concepts and methods of expression. All fundamental require- 
ments of the modern stage prevailed in its earliest primitive 

When a sudden impulse of artistic curiosity to know more about 
the earliest roots of the theatre leads us to the voluminous library 
dealing with the history of the stage and the drama we may find 
ourselves introduced to its ancient manifestations in the mediaeval 


Indians of the American 
North-west Coast 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 


mystery plays and, further back, to the Attic tragedies and their 
forerunners, the chorus of the satyrs' play. At this point, recorded 
history of the theatre usually stops, leaving man's first theatrical 
endeavours hidden in the dawn and dust of the unknown. 

This much we are told : that classical Greece featured two 
types of play, different from each other in mood and content 
and yet appearing intermingled throughout : the sacred, classical 
drama of pompous style, and the entertaining, satirical comedy 
based on burlesque improvisations the mime (mimos). *As an 
intermezzo, or prologue, or afterpiece, the mimos penetrated and 
interrupted the sombre flow of the great tragedies, furnishing a 
spell of relief from the high-strung declamations. Its form of 
witty comedy, with its persiflages on everyday events and its satire 
upon the leading citizens of the day, reached high literary perfection 
with such authors as Herondas of Greece (third century B.C.) 
some of whose writings are preserved on a papyrus scroll in the 
British Museum and Decimus Laberius of Rome, who counted 
Caesar among his admirers. 

This classical inheritance of theatrical tragedy and comedy 
was revived in France during the Middle Ages when Christian 
brotherhoods, like the actors of the Confrerie de la Passion, per- 
formed their religious mystery plays, while their worldly colleagues, 
the * unworried children/ or enfants sans souci, performed 
humorous-profane entertainment. Later, in England, both trends 
were represented by the choirboys of the Royal Chapel and the 
strolling players again the elements of seriousness and of joy. 
Like a red thread, the influence of the Attic mimos goes through 
the immortal plays of literature, from Shakespeare's jesters and 
clowns to Moliere's witty valets and Goethe's Walpurgis Night's 
witches all these are great-grandchildren of the ancient jokers, 
always intermingled with the serious characters of the drama. 
They accentuate by contrast the two elements of the theatre: 
tragedy and comedy. When the Church declared that the historical 
gay demons were devils, when religious taboos forbade, especially in 
Mohammedan countries, all theatrical performances, the silhouettes 
of the shadow plays of Java and Turkey took up the old tradition 
to still humanity's craving for light entertainment by offerings of 
burlesque plays in the spirit of the mimos ; our Punch-and-Judy 
shows are nothing else. 

But from where did the Greeks inherit their satyr plays ? 
Whence originated the witty satirist who leaped on light soles 
among the buskins of tragedy ? How about the origins of the 
drama as such ? What were the first plays like ? What were their 



subjects and their stage ? Who sat in the audiences, and who 
were the stars ? The answers can, indeed, be found only when 
we study and compare the plays and performances of primitive 
cultures. To-day we find ourselves able to tr^ce back the Greek 
mimos and the modern theatre to their inception. 

As a result of his comparison of the Mexican with the Greek 


Fumbam, West Africa 
Photo Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

drama, Preuss has found that both go back in their origin to 
the fertility demons of the phallic ceremonies of primitive man. 
The earliest forms of the mimos, as it was later called, were not 
necessarily characterized as lowly, burlesque buffooneries. This 
element was merely represented by the clown or jester alone. 
The dances in honour of Dionysus and the mummings of the 
chorus of the Attic comedy stand on the same level as the costumed 
demons of vegetation that appeared in large numbers at the 
religious feasts of ancient Mexico for the purpose of invigorating 
the renewal of the gifts of the plant kingdom. However, in the 
high cultures of which the Mexican was a part the connexion 
between the mimos and the religious play was already so strong 



that the demonic origin of the mimos deteriorated to the mere 
satirical, grotesque element, even to obscene burlesque of a purely 
entertaining nature. 

Originally the phallic fertility ceremonies were considered 

necessary to bring about 
nature's cycles of renewal, to 
obtain rain and therewith the 
fertility of the fields, aad to 
force the gods of vegetation to 
produce the fruits of agricul- 
ture. The * death ' and sub- 
sequent resurrection of nature 
were celebrated in these feasts 
of the high cultures of the Old 
and the New Worlds. Osiris ; 
Adonis, Tammuz, Attis, 
Demeter, and Dionysus are 
nothing but the names of the 
fertility gods whose death and 
resurrection were celebrated. 
The actors impersonating these 
gods in their pantomimic dances 
performed the plays for the 
purpose of promoting the fer- 
tility of the fields and of the 
hunted or domesticated animals. 
These mimic dances are the 
beginnings of the drama. 

Mimic dances, however, are 
very old ; in fact, they are as 
old as mankind itself. In the 
caves of the later Palaeolithic 
Age we find paintings on the 
walls showing fertility dances 
directed at the multiplication 
of the prey animals like bison, 

boar, bear, and deer. The drawings are done in very naturalistic 
style, the actor being the witch doctor or the magician of the 
tribe, wearing different masks representing the game animals. 

The performances of the most primitive tribes who to-day 
still represent the cultural level of Palaeolithic man like, for 
instance, the Australians, the Veddas, the Fuegians, and the 
Bushmen, have similar mimic dances to increase the number of 


From the Stone Age Cave, 
Trois Freres, Ariege, France 

After Be'gouin-Breuil 


the gathered plants and the hunting animals. The communion 
with the powers which are responsible for the most important 
food of the tribe is symbolically performed by theatrical means. 

The actor studies most attentively the bearing of the animal, 
its manner of jumping, hopping, moving around. Explorers 
who saw, for instance, the kangaroo dance of 
the Australians express unanimous admira- 
tion for the great mimic abilities of the 

In addition to these fertility plays, these 
ancient tribes also perform historic shows 
such as those dealing with stories of the 
migration of the ancestors based on age-old 
traditions. The number of actors varies. 
Friends and relatives of the actors adorn 
them with multicoloured paints and feathers 
which serve as masks. Another group of 
Australian plays performed in symbolic and 
mimic dances has as its subjects death and 
resurrection, love and jealousy, friendship and 
enmity. There is no mimic dance without 
a leading theme. 

While these plays are still connected in some 
way with a serious or cultic idea, another 
group of shows and dances is dedicated 
merely to sheer mimic entertainment. It 
may be termed a dance opera. This type of 
play has nothing whatsoever to do with the 
religious cult, although it is equally old. 
These shows furnish aesthetic satisfaction and 
sensual excitement, distinctly different from 
the religious awe of the rituals. Best known 
among them are the Australian corroborees. 

The occasions for performing a corro- Ethnography, Cologne 
boree are numerous. Corroborees are held 
when an important wild-growing fruit is ripe, before leaving for 
war, after a happy hunt, during meetings with a neighbourly tribe, 
and especially as an assurance of peace between different tribes 
and as a corroboration of a concluded peace treaty. 

In contrast to the traditional alternating songs and texts of 
the cultic rites, the words sung or spoken during the corroborees 
are improvised and witty. Any merry idea is turned into a 
jocose remark or gesture ; and whim is followed and expressed 

Museum of 


in strange caprice, to be repeated in chorus by the delighted 

Despite its loosely knit structure, each such Australian play 
has its carefully prepared climaxes : the painted actors appear 
and vanish effectively in the dim light of the moon, with an 
invisible orchestra of percussion instruments stirring the nerves 
of the onlookers. All the joys and poetic thrills of the show come 
to the Australians with these corroborees, which are sometimes 
of great artistic fascination. 

But it was not from the purely entertaining shows that the 
mtmos and eventually the modern drama developed ; it was from 
the cultic-religious performances. Evidence of the beginnings 
of the mimos is discernible in the oldest cultures. 

When the long sequences of the religious plays begin to weigh 
too heavily on the souls of the audience the desire for a spell of 
relief brings into being a dramatic character created to carry away 
the awe of holy magic by his sudden and burlesque appearance, 
to bring laughter back to man and to accentuate by contrast the 
sincerity of the ritual drama. He is the man of the merry pranks, 
the hero of joy, the great-great-great-grandfather of the scintillating 
actors of the mimos, of the jesters and the clowns. Not shackled 
by any chains of censorship, he leaps around the demonic actors 
of the sacred plays in merry intermediate scenes of hilarious 

The old men in their ' box ' seats in the Australian bush lose 
their dignity when this painted, feathered clown appears. Watching 
his antics, their eyes moisten from excessive laughter, and they 
claim that their " belly is torn from emotions/' rightly recognizing 
their diaphragm as the seat of joy. 

Not only are the doings of men burlesqued at these occasions, 
but also the characteristic habits of the animals. In the 
Tasmanian Kangaroo dance the clumsy jumps of the pouch 
bearers are perfectly imitated ; an emu ballet copies the stiff 
movements of the bird's head while feeding ; a white man's 
horse and buggy, complete with bridle and whip, trots along 
the stage, with the dancers nodding like horses and neighing 

This clownish element of entertainment intrudes even on the 
otherwise very serious initiation ceremonies to offer a breathing 
spell to the harassed candidates. One such grotesque interlude 
is the seal dance of the Yagan of Tierra del Fuego, in which the 
cowering men swing their torsos back and forth to the rhythm 
of song. The way in which they shuffle in seal fashion, scratching 


breasts and arms with their ' flippers/ and grunt at each other 
between occasional hoarse barks, is side-splitting for the hunting 
experts in the audience. Riots of applause reward the accomplished 
actors. Equally excellent is their imitation of the sea-bird Karapu. 
Its slow approach, the clipping and lowering of the wings, the 
characteristic cry, culminate in a sudden ' landing of the flock ' 
of such naturalistic accuracy that even white observers are fascinated. 
A favourite scene of two Yagan clowns is the struggle of two 
vultures for a piece of meat ; this, too, raises gales of laughter. 

The very good time enjoyed in the ' theatre ' by peoples even 
of the most primitive cultures shows that the deepest roots of 
theatrical effect have nothing to do with complicated stage 
mechanisms, individual * stars/ or fashionable playwrights. Imagi- 
nation is the magic cue. Where it fails, the * flop ' is born ; where 
it excels, the stage is a world of miracles. 

So far we have only discussed the plays and performances 
of the oldest cultures, of peoples who from the economic point 
of view belong to the acquisitive form of economy. With the 
development of agriculture, and the domestication of animals, 
man became more dependent on the mystical powers that cause 
rain or drought, a bad harvest or a good one, or the sickness or 
health of the animals. Thus the vefy essence of the life of the 
agriculturist depends on his effort to appease the powers which 
control his food supply by imploring them through performances 
and dances to grant their help and co-operation. 

Often we speak of the culture of the simpler farming societies, 
especially those in Africa and the South Seas, as the Culture 
of the Masks, an indication that the mask worn during their rites 
and performances is the all-important factor in their lives. In 
the mask performances the mask is the hero of the play, not the 
person who wears it. The mask is the character it represents, 
not its likeness. The mask is actually the spirit of the dead, 
the ancestor, the animal, and this conception contributes to the 
awe the play inspires. 

In addition to religious plays, mask performances are given 
for general entertainment. These plays deal with daily events, 
history, and mythology. An amusing example of this type is 
found in the dukwalli plays of the Makah Indians. The Makah 
believe that every creature on earth was once human, and that 
accident, neglect, or misdeed transformed it into its present shape. 
The nature of these * accidents ' is the substance of the dukwalli 
plays. The masks are equipped with little trap doors which are 
opened during the climaxes of the performance to expose the eyes, 


the mouth, or the nose of the actors to the surprised audience. 
This same trick is used by the Eskimo to frighten or amuse the 
onlookers at unexpected moments. The spectators' reaction is 
exactly as in our theatres : applause rewards the successful play, and 
results in its ' long run ' ; if it does not gain the public favour 
it is received with hisses, and vanishes from the play-bill. 


Sioux Indians 

After G. Catlin 

Apart from these purely entertaining shows, the numerous 
religious cult dances and cult plays of the agricultural peoples 
stress the serious religious masks of the fertility demons. The 
art of the actors is mainly directed towards the perfection of the 
solemn religious play. The purpose of such performances is 
to remind actors and spectators alike of the innermost object 
of the play : the utilization of the existing magic powers of the 
unknown for the earthly welfare of the tribe. But the religious 
plays that sometimes go on for weeks are occasionally interrupted 
by a humour-studded, profane interlude which interests and 
amuses the spectators much more than the lengthy, drawn-out 
cultic ceremonies. Among the Pueblo, the Mandan, and Iroquois, 



such alternating performances of cultic plays and entertaining 
interludes are especially typical. 

The ritual of the Zuni, a Pueblo tribe, calls for six major 
ceremonies of which the Katcina cult is the most important. 


Pueblo Indians 
After J. W.Fewkes 

By " Katcinas " they mean supernatural beings symbolized by 
pictures and masks. Each of these masks has its own distinct 
individual characteristics, and is so clearly the image of the god 
it represents that, to the Zuni, it is identical with the supernatural 
being itself. All of the many masks are worn in worship of the 
koko, or rain gods, who are so powerful that humans must die 
at their sight. To protect their friends from this fate, reports 
Bunzel, the koko " authorized masked dances, and promised 
to come and stand before them " in the shape of rain. All men 



of the community are members of the Katcina Society. They wear 
the gorgeous ancient masks, one hundred and fifteen of which 
are known by name and are individually distinguished by the 
details of their costumes. 

Another ceremony of the Pueblo group, the Pamiirty festival 
of the Hopi Indians, begins with an impersonation of Pautiwa, 
the sun god, whose mask is decorated with rain symbols. He is 
the inaugurator of the whole ceremony, announcing the play and 

making the rounds among all 
fellow - performers, The other 
individually identified masks in- 
clude the fire god, the hawk and 
the grey falcon, the duck and 
the eagle. The players of these 
characters assemble at a distance 
from the village, where they 
don their costumes and, led by 
Pautiwa, file in closed procession 
towards the scene of the play. 
Reaching the stage just before 
twilight, they make a striking 
picture in the waning rays of the 
sun. The wearers of the bird 
masks show off their multi- 
coloured feathers and move their 
arms up and down to create 
the impression of wings. Other 

masks begin to sing under their knobbed helmets, and shake their 
rattles ; the play begins. There are altars before which food is 
offered to the Katcinas ; painted screens serve as backgrounds, 
and the floor of the stage i& often decorated with colourful sand 

Very large numbers of Katcinas appear also at another occasion, 
during the Powamu festival of the bean-planting, which symbolic- 
ally re-enacts the rebirth and purification of the earth, with the 
* return of the Katcinas ' as its principal theme. This ceremony 
is interrupted by the appearance of the Koyemci, the profane 
actors of the interlude. The Katcina ceremonies call for ten 
Koyemci, always appearing as a group, each of them individually 
named and equipped, although they can easily be distinguished 
from the other dancers by their scanty clothing. They follow their 
' father/ a special leader chosen by the priests. Their bodies 
are painted pink, their faces hidden under knobbed masks which 

Pueblo Indians 
After y. W. Fcwkes 


are moulded with clay into grotesque features. Their only 
garment is a kilt of black cloth which they like to remove during 
the climaxes of their caprioles. Their genitals, which are tied in 
place with a cord, are exhibited freely, because " it is all right for 
the Koyemci to take off their covering/' say the people ; " they are 
just like children/' This childish, unformed character is their 
mythological privilege. They follow the holy masks, burlesquing 
their movements, a practice which often leads to obscene extrava- 
gances. When they pass the houses the women pour water on them 
" to induce prompt rain." Although they are hilariously funny, 
they enjoy great respect. Gushing, an old author, says of them : 

Silly were they, yet wise as the gods and the high priests ; for 
as simpletons and the crazed speak the things seen of the instant, 
uttering belike wise words and prophecy, so spake they ; and 
became the attendants and fosterers, yet the sages and interpreters 
of the ancient dance drama of the ka-ka (koko). . . . Named are they 
not with names of men, but with names of mismeaning. 

Wherever they appear, they provide for the gay side of enter- 
tainment. One of them may suddenly jump among the dancers 
to exclaim: " My wife made off with another man; this night I 
take a little trip myself ! " Their taleats as jugglers and conjurers 
are higly appreciated by the audience, For instance, they burn 
a feather and then, after a deep breath, produce it from their 
mouths, and make objects disappear and reappear to the delight 
of the onlookers. 

Their assistants, the wictcinas, throw clay balls or mud at the 
bystanders ; they shoot with tiny arrows to indicate the sting of 
bees, or use branches as their fools' bats, another attribute of 
the clown that survived through the ages. When these primitive 
clowns whip the public they ' take away the bad luck.' 

To check the curiosity of the onlookers, the clown claims the 
fool's bat as his privilege among other tribes also, such as the 
Selish, the Nutlmatl, and the Navaho. The latter have the * sword 
swallower,' who symbolically inserts a feather-trimmed stick in his 

In the Pueblo ceremonies the Koyemci alone are performing 
actors, while the wearers of the Katcina masks merely execute 
their solemn dances. These two types of mask wearer, the religious 
Katcinas on the one side and the profane Koyemci actors on the 
other, must be recognized as completely different characters. 
They never trespass on each other's domains, although both are 
naturally of religious, cultic origin. 



The Koyemci are famed as gluttons, and love to collect edible 

gifts. This fondness for 
food makes the role of 
Koyemci desirable to the 
poorer Indians, who can- 
not afford the costly outfits 
of the godlike masks, and 
this, in turn, diminishes 
the reputation of the* Koy- 
emci. An influential, well- 
to-do member of the tribe 
never desires to play the 
part of a Koyemci. 

The profane interludes 



Pueblo Indians 

After J. W.Fewkes 

during the sun-dance festi- 
vals of the Prairie Indians 
parallel in many ways the 
performances of the Koyemci clowns. In the Okipa ceremony 



Mandan Indians 

After G. Catlin 



of the Mandan it is Okihede, the devil, who comes forth as the 
burlesque character. On his head he wears a cap trimmed with 
a black cock's comb. His face is hidden under a wooden mask 
with white rings around the eye openings and pieces of wick for 
teeth. A sun is painted on his stomach, a half-moon on his back. 
Wearing a bison tail, he runs wild in the prairies. Often the 

West Africa 

Vatchivoke, West Africa 
After H. Capello and R. Ivens 

monster ransacks the village, searching all corners of the huts and 
asking for gifts. He also offers to remove vermin. 

Africa, too, knows such a burlesque figure. It is the famous 
joker of the Congo Basin called the Mukish. He intrudes upon 
the solemn initiation ceremonies to ban imaginary bugbears. 
His speciality is conjuring tricks. He may appear on stilts on 
which he stalks about with great acrobatic skill. If he does not 
feel inclined to appear himself he may lend out his costume to 
somebody else. His main characteristics versatility and Jack-of- 
all-trades abilities are the same in all parts of the world wherever 
a gay improviser is needed for contrast to the serious parts of 
the play. 


His characteristic fondness for food and culinary excesses has 
remained an ear-mark of the clown up to the high cultures, through 
the Middle Ages and later, as Gargantua and Falstaff prove. 
Often his very name is identical with the favourite food of his 
nation, be he the French Jean Chocolat, the German Hans 
Wurst, the English Jack Pudding, the Italian Maccharoni, the 
Dutch Pickleherring. His masks and attributes are as manifold 
as, human imagination itself. Whether he is merely distinguished 
by paint and feather trimmings, as in Australia, or adorned nvith 
elaborate head-dresses and masks that are masterpieces of art, 
whether he uses mere branches or clay balls or complicated props 
like stilts and magic tricks, nobody can be in doubt that a gay 
interlude begins when he makes his appearance. 

He may take the inspiration for his pranks even from the * crazy ' 
ideas of civilized man : Iroquois clowns imitate skaters or loco- 
motives ; New Guinean jesters, inspired by their experiences 
during the Second World War, jump as * parachutists ' from 
trees with grotesquely outstretched arms. The Hopi caricature 
of a scientist ' scribbling ' data on a shred of ' paper ' is masterly. 
In Africa the most applauded clowns, for instance of the Yoruba, 
are those who poke fun at the * uncivilized ' habits of the white 

Among some Calif ornian Indian tribes the office of clown, 
hili'idaCj passes from father to son, which results in great pro- 
fessional pride. These peoples would hold no mourning ceremony, 
no ceremonial face-washing, without the clown's presence. The 
Apache, who cure their sick with holy dances, let special ' devil 
clowns ' mingle with the divine cheden devils during the magic 

Likewise clowns appear even during the holy dances of Tibet 
among the symbol-laden Lamaist gods and devils, to arouse gales 
of laughter when they grotesquely imitate the ceremonious steps 
of the sacred dancers. In contrast to the gold-studded, skull- 
wearing gods, the clowns are clad in skeleton costumes with 
bones painted in the proper places. It is said that once they 
were ascetics so deeply absorbed in meditation that they did not 
notice a thief who stripped them of their skins. Since that time 
they are sworn enemies of all burglars, and are called upon to 
detect anyone guilty of theft, an ability which is ascribed also to 
the Koyemci. 

In the people's conception, the clowns remain hilarious and 
foolish but also strangely enlightened creatures, destined to be 
laughed at, yet not to be ridiculed too much because, as the Zuni 


say, " the Koyemci are dangerous. " Their genial art of impro- 
visation has accompanied the clowns into their modern exile, 
the circus. They alone wear the loud paint of primitive days ; 
they alone can take excessive liberties with dignified visitors. 
An occasional tragic touch or an extemporary line of deep wisdom 
reminds us of their ancient past as partners of the holy demons. 

From the figure of the clown, his troupe, and their entertaining 
performances, developed the mimos of the high cultures of the 
Old and the New Worlds. The line of development leads from the 
mimic dances of the hunters and food gatherers to the fertility 
rites and phallic dances of the agriculturists, and from there to the 
high cultures, to culminate in the mimos , the people's theatre of 
the Hellenes, and the beginnings of the great world theatre, the 
theatre of our time. 

As to the original figure of the clown as such, he was for a time 
the victim of the changing development. The true meaning of the 
clown as a contrasting counterpart to the holy demons, the gods of 
fertility, of rain, plants, and animals, somehow got lost, or, at least, 
became distorted and misunderstood in the ancient high cultures 
when the states' religions absorbed some of the older rituals to 
direct the souls of the ' pagan ' worshippers into new channels for 
the benefit of the priests. The officially introduced mysteries and 
miracle plays overshadowed the original meaning of the fertility 
rites, whose elements were preserved only in isolated ceremonies 
as, for instance, in the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient Greece. The 
clown, that old survivor of the fertility rites, could no longer be 
understood in his role as the bringer of relief, the gay interrupter. 
He now stood for the entire complex of which he originally was 
just a part : he was mistaken for the phallic demon himself. 

In the later course of the development of the show and the 
theatre, however, he regained his original purpose as a mere 
clown and jester. And just like the spectators at the ancient 
religious rites, our modern-drama audiences still long for an 
occasional streak of burlesque entertainment. Whenever the 
flow of the play becomes too tragic, too intellectual, the skilful 
playwright inserts a contrasting note of gaiety, whether that note 
is an outright clown or a picturesque idea of the stage director. 
Goethe featured trained poodles during intervals of his Faust ; 
Lessing let rope-dancers provide the comedy element. 

The importance of the producer was recognized in earliest 
times, whether he was the author himself directing the movements 
of his characters, or an appointed dance manager, as among the 
Zuni and Hopi and most Californian tribes. He is regarded 



as the * big boss of the show ' who may occasionally even act as 
a clown himself. In this disguise he will, for instance, criticize 
a bad chieftain. ' Talking crazy,' dancing backwards, he wields 
enough authority to induce the old men to get rid of an incompetent 
chief and to elect a new and better one. 

As for the stage, it was the wide 
open spaces in the beginning, but 
even tribes as primitive aa the 
Fuegians calculate skilfully the effects 
of proper focus, and do not allow the 
audience a too close approach to the 
performers. From the special hut 
where the masks are kept developed 
the separately constructed dance 
house, as the Eskimo and many other 
tribes know it. The Pueblo and re- 
lated societies perform their plays on 
an area distinctly designated for this 

In the high cultures the market- 
place and the entrance halls to the 
temples became the propylceum ; or 
the king's palace served as a dramatic 
auditorium. The theatre of the 
Aztecs, as Sahagun and Father Acosta 
describe it, " was a platform, square 
and uncovered, situated ordinarily in 
STAGE SCREEN OF THE HOPi the centre of the market-place or at 
INDIANS, DEPICTING ALOSAKA, the foot of some pavilion. This plat- 
THE IDOL OF THE HORN form was sufficiently raised to enable 
PRIESTS it to be seen from all sides by the 

spectators." In the Relaciones of 
Cortes we find a description of the 
Aztec theatre of Tlaltelolco, which was " made of stone and lime, 
thirty feet high and thirty paces on a side." The * stage entrance* 
is, even in the earliest cultures, reserved to the performers exclu- 
sively, and the injunction " Keep out ! " stands clearly over the 
doors of make-believe, although there may actually be neither doors 
nor posters. 

The masks may be the property of the actor ; he may own his 
costume, or merely its design, or both, and when he refuses to 
take part he may stop the whole show if it so happens that no 
other tribesman is authorized to wear it. Sacred masks, especially, 

After J. W.Fewkes 


are often the property of the entire tribe. They can be ordered 
from special craftsmen even of other tribes, as is the practice of 
the Makah, who have their finest costumes carved and fashioned 
by Nittinat Indian artists. 

The Zuni divide their Katcina masks into two groups : the 

* Katcina priests ' of ancient and permanent type, worn by the 

* gods/ which are tribal property, and the * dancing Katcinas,' 
used in group dances, which may be ordered by any Indian 
wealthy enough to afford them. The " Katcina priests " are, as 
Bunzel states, " treated with the utmost reverence. They are 
danger ous." Significantly enough, also, the Koyemci belong to 
the ' Katcina priest ' masks. After the dance the mask is taken 
to its keeper 's home. "It is wrapped in buckskin or in cloths 
to keep out the dirt, and is hung from the roof or placed in a jar. 
The dangerous ones are all kept in jars. The mask is never 
placed on the floor. The mask is fed at every meal. Some one 
will go into the mask room with some food and feed it to the 
mask." People say : " Go in and feed the grandfathers. " These 

* dangerous ' priest Katcinas are supposedly gifts of the super- 
naturals themselves, and are " handed down through generations. " 
They are all distinguished by their complete lack of any attempt 
at realism : their cloud symbols and animal or floral meanings 
can be properly * read ' only by the tribespeople, which makes 
their identification a science in itself. The theatre is one of the 
main subjects of instruction at the initiation ceremonies. 

The property rights that regulate the ownership of masks 
involve also the texts and songs used ; hence we may speak of a 
regular primitive copyright. The New Guinean vaim nor masks 
worn in Murik can be made only by the inhabitants of one specified 
village by the name of Djanein, as Schmidt relates : " All other 
villages have to order it from there ; the mask lauen can only be 
made in Karau." 

The same applies to the songs which are owned by clearly 
defined sibs exclusively. This strict copyright appears in the 
earliest cultures, for instance, on the north-west coast of Aus- 
tralia where, according to A. P. Elkin, " a particular chant is 
sung when the design is being engraved on a pearl-shell. The 
design cannot be made except by those who know the song " 
in other words, by the * owners ' of the song. In the same region 
dances and songs are named after their inventors, and are safe- 
guarded against any infringement by non-owners. The owner 
of a song may authorize a * helper ' to sing it with him, as is 
customary among the Kamia of south-eastern California. Their 


songs are owned by men only, and their copyright goes back 
through the generations. 

Songs may be sold or bequeathed, and they may be a regular 
source of royalties to be paid by anyone authorized by the owner 
to ' borrow ' them. The idea that a text must be paid for by 
anyone who wants to use it is so strongly developed by the Zuni 
that they could not conceive how the Christian missionaries, 
in their efforts at spreading the new religion, could give away 
the precious stories of the Bible ' free of charge.' When, among 
the Winnebago, an unauthorized person and anyone except the 
author himself is unauthorized tells a story he is considered 
a thief and a liar, and the story is * wrong/ even if it follows the 
original word for word. 

The theatre of primitive man is not without change, even if 
certain dances and songs belong to the permanent stock of the 
stage. Scenes are continually changed, shortened, or added. 
The repertoire is enlarged in many ways. Plays and danCes of 
neighbourly tribes may be adopted, but they too are copyrighted, 
and the privilege to perform them has to be paid for. The right 
of performance is purchased from the owner, whether an individual 
or a whole tribe, and no .producer from another tribe who may 
have memorized the course of action during a visit would dare 
to take the play into his own repertoire without having paid for it. 

The most important factor in the theatre of primitive peoples, 
as well as in our own, is the audience that means the entire 
tribe and often even other invited tribes from the neighbourhood. 
The aim of the performance is to please the masses. The theatre 
is everybody's business, its offerings concern every single member 
of the tribe, and as the concern of all it is truly an expression 
of the public mind. Entrance fees are unknown since there 
are neither producers who want to take money nor actors' salaries 
to pay. And, contrary to our custom by which the professional 
critic ' makes ' or dooms a play, the audience itself expresses its 
opinion, unmistakably and inexorably. 

Music almost invariably accompanies the shows of primitive 
man. All kinds of rattles, drums, flutes, sounding sticks, and 
assorted musical bows, harps, guitars, and trumpets serve to 
enhance the effect, even if the play itself is not musical in its 

In primitive music, however, the emphasis on rhythm is much 
more pronounced than in our culture ; and this rhythm is much 
richer, more differentiated, and more complicated than found 
even in our symphonic music. Primitive skill in the interweaving 


of different rhythmical themes is so great that it is impossible 
for us " to grasp the rhythmical complications of primitive music 
at a simple hearing/' as Hornbostel puts it. Modern music, 
in its recent rebellion against an harmonic tradition, for centuries 
considered the highest possible musical scheme, is going in the 
direction of at least the simpler stages of the rhythmical perfection 
achieved by primitive peoples. 

Primitive music is not harmonic-metrical like ours, but purely 
melodic-rhythmical. The idea of Democritus that man was first 
impelled to make music when he attempted to imitate the songs 
of birds may be partially right, as some such songs of aborigines 
actually prove, but musical art as such did not develop from such 
attempts. It was not the * melodies ' of the birds' songs that in- 
vited imitation, but merely its gay trills and clicks that were added 
to the * human ' melodies. 

The earliest musical instrument was the human voice. In 
primitive songs it remains strictly homophonous, even if the 
occasional use of parallel octaves, necessitated by the different 
pitch of the singer's voice-registers, sometimes creates a poly- 
phonic impression. The oldest ' opera scores ' consist of a text 
sung by the chorus leader and a refrain of short motives, often 
senseless syllables rich in vowels, repeated by the chorus. When 
the leader's voice took the form of questions to which the other 
singers replied the alternating or dialogic song developed, to 
grow with the sound of the accompanying instruments into a 
regular opera libretto, even though the ' book of words ' existed 
only in the memories of the performers. 

Of the musical instruments which the manager of the primitive 
show has at his disposal four main groups have been characterized 
by Hornbostel : firm bodies, bent membranes, strings, and wind 
instruments. The * firm bodies ' are the percussion instruments, 
the simplest of which is the clap of human hands accompanying 
song and dance. In the oldest cultures, like the Australian, sound 
sticks, rattles, and additional rhythmic devices are used, at times 
in combination with primitive sounding boards like calabashes 
or hollow trees. Such sound sticks are used in pairs by the Papago 
Indians, who rasp them upward and downward and occasionally 
add to their range of sound by beating a simple, turned-over 
household basket with them. The same idea induces the primitive 
tribes of the Malaccan Peninsula to roll up their bast mats and 
beat them rhythmically with the sticks, which causes an explosive 
sound audible at long distances. Tubes of bamboo banged on 
the ground are equally effective Malaccan percussion instruments. 


The realization that a hollowed-out wooden body can be used as 



Yuma Indians 

After F. Densmore 

a producer of sound led to the invention of the wooden drum, 

whose manifold possibilities have pro- 
vided the climax for many a dance, show, 
and * supernatural ' spectacle. Among the 
smaller rhythm beaters are the world- 
widely distributed family of rattles 
(fashioned of all imaginable materials, 
like gourds, deer-hooves, cocoons, split 
sticks, wood, pottery, iron and bronze) 
and bells, especially used in a West 
African instrument. From the sounding 
stick, suspended from a tree, a long line 
of evolution leads to the triangle and the 
cymbal of the high cultures. 

Bent membranes are used to create the 
sound - producing ' membranophones.' 
Their most ancient form is the bull roarer 
or Waldteufel y which plays an important 
role in the mystical religious ceremonies 
of Australia. No non-initiated person is 
ever allowed to see it. Its African parallel 
is the mirliton, used to change the sound 
and pitch of the human voice at equally 
sacred occasions. It masks the identity 
of the singer during the holy ceremonies, 
and its sight is strictly forbidden to 
The modern kazoo, an instrument ' to be 


After Bernatzik 

women and children. 

sung into/ is its later development. The most important instru- 


ment of this group is the skin-covered drum, which can be found 
in all agricultural regions of the globe. 

The sweet sound of the stringed instruments could add its 
lyrical touch to the shows of primitive man only after the invention 
of the bow from which it originates ; and the bow goes, as we know, 
back to man's oldest robot, the animal trap. The one-stringed 
musical bow, or monochord, is the oldest string instrument. 




Pangwe, West Africa 
After G. Tessmann 

By the addition of more strings and sounding boards it developed 
into the harp, the lute, the lyre, the cithara, the guitar, the violin, 
the 'cello, and their manifold variations. 

Gentle and powerful is the sound of the wind instruments. 
From the twittering flute to the trumpet fanfare, the aerophones 
have been effectively used to underline the dramatic climaxes 
of the primitive play. From simple pipes or flutes forms of 
extreme diversity have developed, be it the " quill whistle made 
from a big feather cut like a cane pipe " or the scores of wooden, 
bamboo, and metal flutes and pipes manufactured from Africa 
to the South Seas. Malaccan natives like the sound of the wind 
or aols organ, an arrangement of pipes suspended from trees. 
A group of flutes strung together resulted in the invention of the 



Pan pipe of all sizes, from a few inches to six and more feet, which 
is the basic form of our organ. 

Africa and New Guinea especially abound in flutes. In New 
Guinea the sacred brag flute is the * voice J of the holy brag spirit, 
while the mask is his 'face. 1 Nose flutes, mouth flutes, and 
cross flutes are the best known New Guinean forms. Africa 

Gazelle Peninsula 



Pangwe, West Africa 
After G. Tessmann 

knows them made of bamboo, wood, and iron ; the last developed 
into trumpets. To render their shows more spectacular, native 
African princes keep at their courts fanfare corps of thirty and more 
musicians. Related to the trumpet is the horn, used in the form 
of an antelope horn in Africa and still preserved as the ram's horn 
of the Jewish Passover ceremony. The prehistoric European 
trumpet of about 1400 B.C. was the lura, cast in bronze, which played 
a dominant role in the Scandinavian and Nordic German cult plays. 
The single use of one or another of these instruments and their 
blending in orchestras produces the nerve-stirring sounds that seem 
to translate the voices and presence of supernatural beings, even 
for the white man who ventures into the audience during a 


primitive show. The possibilities are tremendous, and they are 
made use of with exceptional skill. From the sound sticks of 
the Australians to the rhythmic trance of the drums, from the 
xylophone-accompanied choruses of West Africa to the luras and 
citharas of Scandinavia and of Greece, music has added the divine 
touch to the spectacles of man ; it has enthralled actors and 
audiences alike in the theatres of the wilderness and in the opera 
houses of our time. 

Rhythm sound music but older 
was the spoken word. Sequences of 
spoken words, as they are used in tradi- 
tional plays and songs, are * texts/ and 
such texts are as old as, if not older 
than, the consciousness of music. 

We are already familiar with the habit of 
primitive tribes of using the repetition 
of shouted syllables or cries as a means 
of dramatic expression for the sake of 
rhythmic trance during their dance plays. 
Equally effective are the ever-recurring 
sentences repeated by the carriers iji 
African safaris, like : " Here comes the 
white man, mighty with many things 
a beard has he and a helmet, his face 
is red, his feet are soft hahaha ! " 
Such sentences turn the drudgery of everyday labour into a regular 
* performance. ' To this type belongs also the Hawaiian sing-song : 

Lii-coo-honua, the man, 
Ola-ku-honua, the woman, 
Kumo-honua, the man, 
Lalo-honua, the woman . . . 

repeated again and again with the names of each couple attending 
the show. 

A combination of the continued text and the dramatic use 
of exclamations is the flowing tale song of the chorus leaders in 
Australia, Africa, and elsewhere, with the rest of the singers 
restricting themselves to a mere repetition of cries, syllables, or 
one monotonous sentence. 

The original syncretism of the oldest cultures differentiates 
itself in the agriculture societies, and develops in the high cultures 
to the fundamental types of literature : poetry, prose, and drama. 
They became literary art in the " Ollanta " drama of the ancient 


Upper Nile 
After Bernatzik 


Peruvians, the Prakrit-language classical plays of the India of 500 
B.C., and the Chinese dramatic masterpieces, especially of the 
twelfth century, which have not been surpassed in form or idea. 
But however complicated the rules of literature in later develop- 
ments, any literary masterpiece is based upon emotion and thought, 
subtleness of feeling, and beauty of expression. In this respect, 
even the most renowned tragedies and comedies of the great 
world theatre are in no way superior to certain lyric texts of primi- 
tive man like, for instance, this little Australian alternating song 
in honour of the cicada which lives on trees, the totem animal 
of a tribe east of Finke Gorge honoured by ' its ' people with an 
annual nocturnal show performed by a large group of elated 
actors : 

The little cicada: are chirping 

When ev'ning blesses the West 

They sing, and humiliated 

Quiets down the song-bird's breast. 

Down from the tree must fall then 
Who self-forgetting sings : 
In the sunbura-grass they quiver, 
W T ith sunset-reddened wings. 

The young cieadac are singing 
In the Ilumba near the stream; 
The tree, so heavily laden, 
Sways slowly; he's adream. 

The little cicada? are singing, 
Inviting Night to Earth, 
That it may gently cover 
The Bush and our hearth. 


Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness 

THE SPIRITUAL AND material possessions that characterize the 
life of precivilized man are, within the framework of their 
natural surroundings, rich and varied. They have homes filled 
with pleasant furnishings ; they have crafts and skills ; they 
travel ; they trade ; they pass round the news ; they educate 
their children ; they have their joys and entertainment ; they 
are aware of the grandeur of art. With all these benefits, they 
are relieved from many of our modern worries from the land- 
lord or the tax collector, from the hazards of a job or the wire- 
pullings of politicians. Yet we call them primitives. 

They have rules of behaviour but do they have laws ? They 
are no angels who takes care of their criminals ? They have no 
policemen who enforces the maintenance of law and order ? 
What agencies represent the common interests of all ? 

The general confusion about the answers to these questions 
has been so great that only very recently has it become possible 
to satisfy our curiosity about the development of the political 
and legal institutions of primitive societies. There have been 
many incorrect and even fantastic reports on their law by anthro- 
pologists and on their anthropology by lawyers, with the result 
that the facts have occasionally been distorted by lack of under- 
standing and by sweeping generalizations. 

All through the ages, from ancient history to the time of the 
great discoveries and often up to our days, primitives have been 
pictured as fabulous creatures either happy idlers living in 
their own Gardens of Eden, or ferocious head-hunters of beastlike 
savagery. It did not occur to most of the civilized observers 
that they are men and women created in the image of God, that 
they are " created equal/' and that they, too, strive to obtain the 
supreme privilege of man : life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness, whatever the shape of that happiness may be. 

In primitive society, as in ours, it is the task of the political 
institutions and there are many, as we shall see to take care 
of the happiness and safety of the family, the community, the 
local group, the tribe, and the people as a whole. Legally and 
socially, the purposes and aims of government in a primitive 
society are the same as in modern society : to regulate life within 
and without the community, to hold the group together, to 




safeguard their food supply, to keep up the established order, 
and to maintain peace inside and outside the borders. 

In such tribes as^the Australian aborigines and the Tasmanians, 
the Bushmen, the Veddas, the Botocudos, and the Fuegians, 
the territorial legal unit is the local group, not the single family 
or the single individual. The territory of such a local group varies 
among the Australians from four thousand to ten thousand square 
miles, and there are from twenty to one hundred members in 

After Prince Max zu Wied 

such a community. The boundaries of the country claimed by 
the group are well known, not only by the members of the group, 
but also by those of neighbouring groups. The group in its 
entirety reacts against a violation of its territory not the single 
individual or the single family. 

Among the Tasmanians, a violation of the boundary was 
equivalent to a declaration of war. The same applies to the 
Australian food gatherers and hunters, among whom boundary 
violations always resulted in war. Except in the case of boundary 
violations, the local group resorts to war only in cases of murder 
or the abduction of a woman. It is the group's task to take 
vengeance on a group, not the individual's or the family's task 
to revenge itself. 

But the wisdom of the wilderness and the respect for human 
lives do not allow wars which are waged over a violation of hunting- 
grounds to be continued until one of the fighting groups is destroyed. 
Often it is decided that an equal number of men from each side 
shall fight. In most cases the quarrel is settled by means of a 


duel ordered by the groups. Indeed, even then there is no intention 
to continue the fight until one of the combatants is killed. It 
is sufficient that one shall be incapacitated. The Botocudos, in 
such a duel, leave their bows and arrows at home and use sticks 
only. It may end in a general 
brawl, with the women taking part 
by hair-pulling. 

Sometimes a local group is 
forced, because of the increase of 
its members and the consequent 
necessity of extending its economic 
basis, to make an active invasion 
into the territory of another group. 
J. Frazer reports such a case from 
a local group of the Australian 


They sent their public messenger 
to one of the adjoining sub-tribes, 
asking for a part of the latter's 
land. This was refused, as being 
against tribal law, and also because 
the taurai in question was not big 
enough to admit to the proposal. 
The former sub-tribe then sent to 
say they would come and take 
what they wanted. The latter 
answered that in that case they 
would appeal for justice and help 
to the neighbouring sub - tribes. 
Thereupon both sides prepared for 
war, met, and, as usual, much 
talking and angry speech- making 
followed. It was at last agreed 
that next day an equal number 
from each side should fight it 
out, but when the time came the dispute was settled by single 
combat. This is the common cause and issue of a tribal quarrel. 

We also have in our society ' the common cause/ but modern 
invaders don't waste much time on negotiations, and the settling 
of international disputes is not as easy a matter as it was in 

Though generally death is the punishment for any transgression 
of the boundary, there are certain preferred persons, messengers 
who bear some distinguishing mark, who are permitted to enter 





After F. D. McCarthy 


foreign territory at the order of a neighbouring band for the 
purposes of buying, exchanging, or conferring with others of their 
kind. This happens especially when the region belonging to a 
band contains needed natural products, such as stones for axes, 
ochre, or the much desired narcotic pituri in large quantities. 
If such goods are wanted in exchange the local group concerned 
has to be officially notified. In most cases an invasion of foreign 
territory without permission means death. Only the great diplo- 
matic skill of the elders of an Australian tribe once averted the 
death penalty for an illegal trespasser. 

Howitt reports that a Wudthaurung man of south-east Australia 
had broken stones from a quarry of the Wurunjerri without their 
permission. The two groups met at the boundary-line between 
their hunting-grounds to discuss the case. 

At the meeting the Wudthaurung sat in one place, and the 
Wurunjerri in another, but within speaking distance. The old 
men of each side sat together with the younger men behind them. 
Billi-billeri had behind him Bungerim, to whom he " gave his 
word." The latter then standing up said : " Did some of you send 
this young man to take tomahawk stone ? " The headman of the 
Wudthaurung replied : " No, we sent no one." Then Billi-billeri 
said to Bungerim : " Say to the old men that they must tell that 
young man not to do so any more. When the people speak of 
wanting stone the old men must send us notice." Bungerim repeated 
this in a loud tone, and the old men of the Wudthaurung replied : 
" That is all right, we will do so." And they spoke strongly to the 
young man who had stolen the stone, and both parties were again 
friendly with each other. 

These are typical cases of the local group's reaction to outsiders 
with regard to landownership. The solidarity of the community 
is expressed in their reactions to conflicts with outside communities ; 
this binds all its members together with strong ties, and unifies 
the band. This is only logical when we consider that a person 
cannot leave the territory of his local group without the fear of 
being killed. One of the great goals is to secure outward peace. 
Within the community, too, preservation of peace and mutual 
assistance in the securing of food are the supreme task. 

The provision of food is determined by a reciprocal social 
insurance, sanctioned by public opinion. Every individual knows 
the norms which bind his own community. The distribution 
of the kill is definitely regulated, and the part of the animal given 
to the less fortunate hunter is not a gift but merely the fulfilment 
of a legal obligation. When a hunter has killed a kangaroo one 


hind leg belongs to the hunter's father, the other to his paternal 
uncle, the tail to his sister, the shoulder to his brother, and the liver 
to himself. Among the Ngarigo, only the head of the killed wombat 
belongs to the hunter ; all other parts are distributed within and 
outside his immediate family. Regulated distribution has been 
reported of a great number of other Australian tribes of hunters 
and food gatherers. The providing of food is not only an obliga- 
tion within the family, but it extends to the local group. The same 
applies to other tribes of the same economic stage the Bushmen, 
the Botocudos, and the Veddas. Among the last the honeycombs 
of the rock bees are equally divided among all families. 

Since the disposition of land and the regulation of food supply 
are problems of the community as a whole the question arises 
whether there is any private property at all in our sense of the 
term. The answer to this question is not easy. But we may say 
that if the term ' property ' is not used in the broad sense of the 
Anglo-American law, but as " the absolute domination of one 
person over one thing," then there is no private property here. 
Such things as weapons, tools, ornaments, and articles of dress, 
or even quarries of ochre deposits, may ' belong ' to a person, 
but this private property is often burdened with many rights of 
third parties, and is not exclusive. Th*e consciousness of personal 
property in our sense is altogether lacking. Presents, for instance, 
given to individuals shortly appear in the possession of other 
persons who received them from the original recipient. " The 
individual is not recognized. He has no independent right," 
write Fison and Howitt. At any rate, movables which are 
valuable and necessary to the clan never can be private property. 

Thus the entire daily life of the individual is embedded in 
the social and legal care of society, whose strongest weapon for 
the enforcement of internal peace is public opinion. Preventively, 
it forces the individual to obey the law ; actively, it brings about 
punishment of transgressions. The individual cannot escape 
unfavourable public opinion, for he cannot leave the local group 
and join another community. That would mean certain death. 
For this reason alone public opinion is the strongest regulating 
agency among food gatherers and hunters. The agencies of law 
enforcement do not need to be well developed, and exist only 
in rudimentary form. 

The fundamental rule, that peace within the community must 
be upheld, does not always permit the law of equivalent retri- 
bution, a lex talionis (" An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth ") 
often not even in the most serious of all crimes, murder within 


the group. For most transgressions of the law definite punishment 
has been designated. Among the Tasmanians, for instance, 
adultery was punished by beating, and driving a spear through the 
offender's leg. Among the Botocudos the woman who has com- 
mitted adultery is beaten or branded by her deceived husband. 
In Australia the same crime is atoned for by a duel of the conflicting 
parties, which, however, never ends in death. 

In Australia and among some other food-gathering tribes the 
executive agencies of public opinion are the old men who, seasoned 
in life and in the tribal laws, not only inform the younger ones 


concerning the boundaries of the clan territory but also instruct 
them in the laws of marriage, the rites of initiation, the distribution 
of food all those norms existing from time immemorial. In 
the hands of these elders also rests that judicial power which 
concerns the community as a whole and is called upon when a 
settlement between the parties is impossible. As well as dealing 
with boundary violations, these old men have to mete out judgment 
in the case of a murder of a clan member by a person outside 
the clan which always results in war. Within the clan, the 
cases brought before the council of the elders are those connected 
with murder, sorcery, infringement of marriage regulations, 
or betrayal of the secret ceremonies at the boys' initiation. The 
punishment usually consists in the wounding of the culprit with 
spears, but not in killing him. 

Chieftainship was but slightly developed or absent. The 
person with greater physical or mental agility was able to exert 
considerable influence over his group r but he too was dependent 


upon public opinion. When chiefs and their functions are 
described in this stage of culture they have usually been given 
such positions by the white people to facilitate their dealings 
with the group. A revealing example has been published by 
Dawson : the facsimile of the treaty which some of the first white 
settlers in Australia concluded with some so-called chiefs about 
the cession of 100,000 acres of land. 

These, roughly speaking, are the regulations in the legal life of 
the food gatherers and hunters. The facts show that it is altogether 
erroneous to describe the legal status of these tribes as anarchic. 
On the contrary, the legal concepts and norms, their structure and 
their applications, are shown with amazing clarity in the reported 
facts. Solidarity of the community against outsiders in the case of 
a boundary transgression or of war, and against insiders who 
violate rules dealing with the provision of food, is the characteristic 
feature. There are only slight beginnings of private ownership, 
though it cannot be denied that certain individual rights similar to 
ownership exist, but not in reference to the soil or to objects 
valuable to the entire group or necessary for its sustenance. The 
pressure from without, the wall formed by the limits of the tribal 
area, is one of the strongest supports of public opinion and of its 
executive agencies for the enforcemenf of legal norms within the 

The economic basis of the harvesting peoples another large 
group of primitive tribes of the pre-productive stage has been the 
cause of various special forms of legal structure and government, 
different from those found among the hunters and food gatherers. 
Although here, too, the local group holds the ownership of a limited 
territory, the inviolability of the land is infringed upon. Using 
modern terms, we may say that the absolute value of real estate 
shifts to the harvesting ground, the part essential for the food supply 
of the community. This part of the territory of the community 
increases in value. Being the main source of support of the local 
group, it now occupies the focal position in the economic and legal 

The size of this harvesting area is sometimes immense a bunya- 
bunya district may extend over seventy miles. The dimensions of 
the lily-root territory on the Roper river and the nardoo region of 
the Arunta are similar. The harvesting ground is usually the place 
where the local group takes up residence, for the economic structure 
demands a more settled mode of living, if only to safeguard the 
storage space. Thus the harvesting ground becomes the chief 
factor in the concentration of population. The number of members 


of a local group is far greater in these tribes than it is among the 
hunters and food gatherers. 

While among the latter a transgression of the boundaries of the 
tribal territory meant certain death, this is not the case among 
the harvesters. There is no punishment for any transgression of the 
boundaries. Indeed, the elasticity of the boundary conditions can 
go so far that the boundaries are in a way nullified. The Australian 
Bangerang and related tribes could take refuge in one another's 
territory. At times two groups may even possess a common harvest- 
ing ground. When the fruit of the harvesting ground matures the 
neighbouring tribes are invited to partake of the superabundance. 

These meetings exercise an important cultural influence. They 
affect, so to speak, the external politics, and are the source of many 
new legal institutions in the fields of primitive ' international law,' 
' commercial law/ and * copyright law.' In Australia, for instance, 
an extremely significant dissemination of cultural elements takes 
place during the gatherings of the harvesters. These meetings are 
not only occasions for trade, for common initiations, for corroborees 
and games ; they also bring about cultural exchange between the 
tribes. In speaking of the Kabi, Curr describes the travelling about 

of corroboree plays : 


The poet having introduced his work to the neighbouring tribes, 
these in turn invited their allies to witness it and aid in the per- 
formance. In this manner a corroboree travelled, and was sung 
with great enthusiasm even where not a word of it was understood. 
The dramatic part in these performances was sometimes very 

The idea of a copyright law is by no means unfamiliar to these 
harvester tribes who provide for an effective protection of this law. 
Already we find here the beginnings of an international copyright 

Many explorers tell of so-called ' neutral territories.' These are 
not the same as boundary sections abandoned for fear of hostile 
neighbours (as is sometimes the case among the hunters and food 
gatherers), but those which have been created by a treaty of neigh- 
bouring tribes. For instance, by mutual agreement the Australian 
tribes on the banks of the Gregory created a neutral territory, fifty 
by one hundred miles in extent, as a place for their meetings. Such 
a territory has an economic as well as a legal aspect. Economically, 
prohibiting the use of this land preserves the supplies of plants and 
wild animals for the meetings of these tribes. The legal aspect is 
that the creation of neutral regions is possible only among tribes 


whose economic foundation is secure within their own tribal 

As for Australia, there can be no doubt that the harvesting 
ground, like the land in general, belongs to the local group as a 
whole. Temporarily, at the time of the harvest, individual families 
may receive an assignment of certain parts of the harvesting ground, 
but the land is the property of the community. Also, among the 
Chaco tribes and the tribes which harvest the wild potato, and 
among the Hyanyam in Matto Grosso, the ownership of the har- 
vesting ground lies with the local group. In regard to the North 
American Ojibway, the Menominee, and the Winnebago, early 
sources such -as Catlin and Schoolcraft make it clear that the har- 
vesting ground belongs to the entire local group, which distributes 
the field anew to individual families before each harvest. 

However, apart from the harvested products, the plants gathered 
and the animals hunted are not always the exclusive property of the 
gatherer or the hunter, but are handled according to rules similar 
to those prevailing among the food gatherers and hunters. The 
Arunta and Loritja have exact prescriptions for the assignment and 
distribution of the kill. At times, the hunter has no right at all to 
his prey. The right of disposal, however, does not rest with the 
political local group but with a smaller*unit, the totem clan, which 
is generally the economic unit. 

In times of need the economic unit is responsible for the food 
supply of the individual. Along the Upper Lakes it is an old rule 
that, " if the food of any worthy family fails the entire food supply 
of the social group is available to make up the deficiency." Chief 
Pokagon writes of the harvesters of the Potawatomi : " Our people 
always divide everything when want comes to the door." 

Besides the collective responsibility for supplying food of the 
totem group (mystically related through a mutual legendary ances- 
tor : plant, animal, or inanimate object), and of the local group for 
political matters, there also exists among the harvesters a develop- 
ment of more detailed legal rules regarding private ownership, which 
is protected by the tribe. While violations of property rights are 
rare, anyone who breaks these rules is punished. 

Private ownership of fruit-trees exists, and is always respected. 
Among the Arunta the ownership of such a tree is indicated by 
placing a bunch of grass on the branches. When a man finds a nest 
of bees he marks the tree containing the honey by pulling up the 
grass round the roots and placing sticks against the tree. If, in 
spite of these markings, some one steals the fruit or the honey the 
injured party has the right to spear the thief to death. The 


punishment of spearing is meted out also to anyone who takes a slain 
animal without the hunter's permission. The same punishment 
also applies when an animal, merely wounded, is caught without the 
consent of the hunter by some one else. If, however, a person asks 
the hunter he has the right to demand part of the prey. 

The thief who steals things not essential for the support of life 
does not fare quite so badly. If he returns the stolen objects the 
matter is regarded as settled. But if he refuses to relinquish the 
stolen goods the owner has the right to spear the culprit's leg or to 
throw a boomerang at him. 

Private property is usually inherited by the eldest son and, if 
there are no sons, by the nearest relatives. 

The adulterer is occasionally punished by a temporary exile from 
the local group, lasting for about two or three months. Among the 
food gatherers and hunters such a sentence would mean death. 
Among harvesters it is a mild punishment, and the temporal 
limitation can be understood in such a tribe only. 

The organization of the public power and its executive agencies 
among these tribes show a fairly uniform picture : chieftainship is 
not specifically developed, though its beginnings are present more 
clearly than among the hunters and food gatherers. Even hereditary 
chieftainship occurs. Two ( ^ays of chieftainship are open : through 
leadership over a numerous and powerful totem clan, or through 
the possession of outstanding individual qualities. The deciding 
power is always the public opinion of the political community 
that is, with the members of the local group, sometimes represented 
by a council of elders or a council of the chiefs of clans. It has 
often been pointed out that, especially among totemistic tribes, the 
legal rules are strongly religious in character and have their roots in 
the totem myths. I have not found any support for this theory ; 
on the contrary, Strehlow expressly states that among the Arunta 
the fundamental legal concepts are not derived from the tribal 
ancestor but have apparently been developed by the council of 
elders, who impart them to the young men at the initiation 

Another especially interesting legal institution found among these 
tribes is the right of asylum and the law of taboo, the two being 
closely connected. The harvesting ground was taboo until harvest- 
ing time, and this taboo was lifted on a certain day by an authorized 
person. After this, harvesting was allowed. Taboos similar in 
effect, though not in cause, are connected with certain localities 
which are regarded as the domicile of the totem spirits or as hiding- 
places for the sacred totem utensils of the tribe. Among the 


Arunta an institution is found which is clearly a right of asylum for 
members of the tribe as well as for strangers. The criminal and 
the stranger are safe, and cannot be seized when they flee to this 
tabooed place. Animals and plants, too, that happen to be there 
are taboo. The right of asylum was probably religious in origin, 
but had predominantly economic consequences. It is an example 
of the reorientation of purpose in primitive law. 

In contrast to the legal institutions of the food gatherers and 
hunters, the legal norms of the harvesters are no longer subordinated 
to the principle of tribal territory ; a transgression of the tribal or 
sib territory is not punished, and only particular parts, such as the 
harvesting ground or the place of refuge, are protected by taboos. 
However, here too the political unit is represented by the local 
group, while the economic unit is smaller. 

The difference in economic form and the resulting relaxation of 
enmity against outside groups have two obvious results. One is the 
accumulation of a greater number of people, not only of those 
belonging to the band itself, but sometimes even of others from 
other local hordes. The legal result as regards outsiders is the 
creation of institutions intertribal in character (neutral territories, 
intertribal festivals) ; as regards internal institutions, the creation 
of forces making for a great differentiation of law and norms . How 
much of the external political picture has changed is shown by the 
fact that, in the North American rice-fields, villages are peacefully 
inhabited by members of four different tribes. 

In the realm of internal politics the organization is stricter than 
among the food gatherers and hunters. Above all, however 
perhaps as a reaction a stronger emphasis upon individual rights 
has developed in those matters that do not relate to the safeguarding 
of the communal food supply for instance, the copyright law. 
But also these tribes do not recognize individual ownership rights 
in respect to land. 

Among arctic hunters and tribes influenced by them the institu- 
tions which serve the purpose of holding the community together, 
safeguarding its food supply, and guaranteeing internal and external 
peace, present a picture somewhat different from that of the 
societies just discussed. Almost all observers emphasize their 
strong communistic tendencies. For example, among the Eskimo 
the borrower of a boat does not necessarily have to return it if the 
person from whom he borrowed it has two boats ; and the great 
whale hunt is an affair of the entire community. The * com- 
munistic traits ' of the arctic people are no more strongly developed 
than those of the tribes of other food gatherers and hunters, among 



whom we have already found the community established as legal 
unit and legal subject. The distinguishing characteristic of the 
arctic culture is a stronger tendency towards individualism within 
a definitely democratic pattern. Although I do not go as far as 
Bogoras, who says, referring to the Chukchee, " It may be said that 
a lone man living by himself forms the real unit of Chukchee 
society," I believe that this individualistic trait is quite easily 
recognizable in the arctic world. 

The boundaries of the local group fluctuate, and transgressions 
of the hunting boundaries are not punished by death, whether in 
the case of a member of a strange tribe or group. Often it is not 
punished at all. The Tungus of the lower Amur river, for instance, 
usually did not keep within their territory, but would hunt on the 
lands of others, especially on the Gilyak territory, without any 
quarrels ensuing. The hunting-ground, which at first probably 
belonged to the local group, is sometimes divided among several 
family groups. These two principles may exist side by side, or 
even alternate at times. 

The political unit depends on the territorial principle and not 
on the kinship system. Among the maritime Chukchee, for in- 
stance, the village does not consist of families related to each other, 
but of those privileged to hunt. Generally the economic unit is a 
smaller group than the political society. The fishing unit is the 
crew of a boat and their families, whose leader divides the catch. 
Among the peoples of arctic Asia and the Alaskan Eskimo, the 
economic unit, be it the crew of a fishing boat, a hunting family, or 
a group of families, often uses property marks for safeguarding its 
catch. However, there is no proof that these are individual pro- 
perty marks. They are few in number, and refer to a number of 
people that is, the economic unit. 

The safeguarding of the food supply is first of all the responsi- 
bility of the respective economic group and then of the whole 
community. The economic security of each member of the com- 
munity forms the focal point of the legal aspect among arctic tribes 
to such an extent that all individual rights are secondary to it, but 
this is true only when the life of an individual is threatened by 
lack of food. 

Thus, among the reindeer-breeding European Lapps, for in- 
stance, extensive use of individual property marks exists, together 
with an obvious inclination towards strong individual definition of 
property rights in connexion with movables. These individual 
rights, however, may be violated at any time under special circum- 
stances. This goes so far that even the theft of reindeer may be 


legal if the thief required the stolen animals for his own use, to 
obtain the meat for eating. From the Lapp's point of view this is 
not considered a theft, even though the sharply defined right of 
personal ownership has been disregarded. This example is not 
typical of the herdsmen but of the arctic hunters. This part of 
Lapp law is a hunters' and not a herdsmen's law. 

Another example, taken from the Montagnais-Naskapi, is on the 
same legal level. The hunting privilege to a particular hunting- 
ground can be violated at any time and by anyone who finds himself 
in need of food. The stranger may hunt and may set traps, but 
only to satisfy his hunger and sustain his life. Indeed, he may even 
prey upon a beaver house marked as some one's property when he 
is in need, but only then. 

This mutual assistance is concerned only with the maintenance 
of life, and goes no further. It especially does not apply to debts. 
Obligations are not fulfilled by a father in his son's behalf, nor by 
a widow in her late husband's. There is no such thing as solidarity 
with regard to obligations among members of a family. What 
mutual assistance there is, is not necessitated by pressure from the 
outside, as is the case among food gatherers and hunters, but is 
compelled by public opinion which, in a single-class society, is much 
more powerful than in ours and has a totalitarian significance. 

Public opinion is effective among the North-east Algonquians, 
not only within the local group but beyond it, and can prevent an 
ill-reputed member of a local group from finding refuge in another 
group. In many cases this means death in the forest. Political 
authority is not held by the chief even when there is a chief ; if at 
all, it is held only by the elders. In the last analysis, it rests with 
the public opinion of the local group as a whole. 

The chief's lack of power among the Central Eskimo has been 
described by Boas in these words : " His authority is virtually 
limited to the right of deciding on the proper time to shift the huts 
from one place to the other, but the families are not obliged to follow 
him. He may ask some men to go deer hunting, others to go 
sealing, but there is not the slightest obligation to obey his orders." 
The same powerless position of the chief if there was such an 
office to begin with, and not just one artificially created by the 
Russians is reported by Bogoras of the Chukchee ; and from my 
own experience I can say the same of the Naskapi, among whom 
the Mistassini band has had no chief for years and up to now has 
not elected one, in spite of the Indian agent's demand that they 
do so. 

In certain Eskimo tribes of Alaska we find exceptions to this rule ; 


these are the tribes which perhaps have been influenced by the social 
stratification of the North-west Americans and who not only had a 
tribal organization with a chieftainship but also a vertical classifica- 
tion of society, including a class of slaves. Beginnings of slavery 
are further found among the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands, 
and also among the Chukchee (probably influenced by the herdsmen 
tribes which were advancing from the south), who in their battles 
with the Western Eskimo made slaves of their prisoners of war. 
Social stratification, however, was very little influenced by this. 

Expert hunters and trappers enjoy special authority, dependent 
upon their personalities, and therefore they often occupy the role 
of mediators and peacemakers in the community, but they too have 
no unconditional authority. If a quarrel cannot be settled, or if 
one party does not want to listen to reason, the elders are powerless. 
To keep peace as long as possible and as long as the community as 
a whole is not disturbed is the fundamental motive in the attitude 
of these tribes. 

In this respect public opinion has a twofold task : first, that of 
a preventive which compels a positive and lawful behaviour of the 
individual ; secondly, that of intervening actively in connexion 
with any violation of law. However, here too it is required that an 
interested group call for action and that the case be such as actually 
to threaten the peace of the community. Thus the occasional trap 
thief or trespasser or quarreller is not taken to task by the com- 
munity, but his punishment is left to the injured party or to the 
group concerned. The community more or less acts as neutral 
spectators, as, for instance, in the song contests of the Eskimo. 

The community, however, takes a part whenever its economic 
security is threatened by the behaviour of one of its members. 
This is the case with incorrigible thieves, persons who habitually 
hunt on the lands of others, chronic quarrellers, and fighters in 
brief, with those whom to-day we call habitual criminals. The 
punishment may be tying to a tree, as among the Montagnais- 
Naskapi ; beatings, as among the Eskimo of Bering Strait ; exile, 
or a sentence of death which is carried out according to circum- 
stances by shooting, knifing, drowning, harpooning, or in some 
other way. 

The procedure and the executive agencies of public opinion are 
not uniform. Among the Montagnais-Naskapi there exist four 
law-enforcing agencies : the chief and council, the shaman, public 
opinion, and sometimes the manager of the Hudson's Bay Company 
post. Among the Chukchee action was taken by a group of 
especially notable men selected by the community. Finally, even 


a single person, without any legal procedure, could receive the 
command or the tacit consent of the community to kill the criminal. 
As proof for the conviction of the criminal, use was often made of 
an oath of the accused, never of an oath by witnesses. The accused 
Chukchee called upon the sun as helper, or he swore by the bear. 

These three great 
different groups of 
peoples which we have 
so far discussed are 
culturally the oldest 
societies of mankind. 
They correspond to 
the tribes and peoples 
of the Palaeolithic Age, 
and have preserved 
many cultural com- 
plexes of early man. 
Their form of economy 
is acquisitive and pre- 
productive. Often the 
existence of legal insti- 
tutions among these 
tribes has been denied 
altogether, but the facts 
are quite different. The 
law of these acquisitive 
tribes is, of course, 
not a judge-made law. 
It is law of the people, 
by the people, for the 

The numerous discrepancies in our society between the feeling 
of the people about what is right and the decisions handed down 
by the courts the opposition of law and justice hardly exist. As 
in other respects, so also in legal concepts the individual is merged 
in the society in which he lives, and his individual acts have reper- 
cussions in the whole social structure. Individual and community 
very intimately know the law, and their simple legal principles do 
not require the interpretation of learned jurists. There is little 
room for the theoretical angle, since their law is essentially a practical 
law created for the sake of life. Its interpretation is determined by 
this purpose, and so are its decisions. 

Legislative or appellative corrections are equally impossible, as 


^ f ^ r , rr . 

Amencan Muse 


is authoritative law by rigid command from above. The permis- 
sible leeway in the meting out of justice is sometimes considerable. 
This does not mean that the technique of the law machinery is 
chaotic or lacking. On the contrary, it is amazing how in such 
primitive cultures the legal aspect is developed and how law and 
procedure have crystallized into an explicit body of rules, sanctioned 


Belgian Congo 
American Museum of Natural History, New York 

by tradition and expressed by public opinion, which is rarely 
divided in these one-class societies. 

With the development of productive economy, not only has the 
structure of society changed but also the structure of the law. 
However, this transition was not a sudden one. We still find in 
the legal organization of the early agriculturists traits characteristic 
of the acquisitive societies, especially in so far as the social security 
of the individual and the territorial rules are concerned. 

The central territorial unit of the simpler farming societies is the 
village ; that is, the limited area of the village with its numerous 
huts of single families and of family groups, or a single sib house 
in the centre. The tribes seem to be divided everywhere into such 


independent villages, headed by a chief who is sometimes loosely 
dependent upon a high chief. However, his importance is very 
slight. The position of the Kai chief of New Guinea, for instance, 
was indicated only by the fact that he possessed the largest field, 
but his greater wealth had to be utilized in obligatory hospitality 
towards his own village and towards strangers. His power was 
extremely meagre, and lay in representation exclusively. He had 
no right over life and death at all except among a few South 
American tribes in case of war. 

Authority is vested in the council 
of elders. Among the horticultural 
tribes matriliny was probably origin- 
ally prevalent in regard to laws of 
descent and inheritance, although 
owing to an intricate conglomeration 
of factors we have not everywhere a 
very clear picture of this develop- 
ment. To - day, in the woodland 
tribes of the Cameroons the family 
is patriarchally organized, but this 
order is obviously of recent origin, 
for even women can be chiefs.. 
Among the Cross river tribes, the 
Bakwiri, the Duala, and the Batanga, 
the originally matrilineal organization 
may still be clearly recognized. 

Land originally was common pro- 
perty, and it is doubtful whether its cultivation created property in 
our sense or merely a right of usufruct. The limitations imposed 
upon the sale of land are a criterion. The Iroquois said : " Land 
cannot be bought and sold any more than water and fire can." In 
Melanesia and West Africa, too, land is not an object of trade. 
Only in cultivated land do we find the beginnings of sib and family 
or individual ownership. 

In West Africa, Melanesia, and South America women have no 
political rights or enjoy such rights only as members of a secret 
society. In contrast to this, the Iroquois women stepped into the 
political foreground. Women apportioned the arable land every 
second year, and it was they who elected the chiefs. But their 
privileges went even further : they had a veto right over the council 
of the men, even in decisions on peace and war. They also had 
the right to adopt strangers into the tribe, and could decide on the 
fate of the prisoners of war. 


Bamum, Cameroons 

Museum of Ethnology, Leipzig 


The mutual assistance rendered in the clearing of a field which 
is customary in Melanesia, South America, and, although not quite 
as frequently, in Africa, indicates that the responsibility for the 
provision of food was not the concern of the individual but, in the 
final analysis, a matter for the community. This, 
however, becomes evident only in times of need, 
and serves merely to prevent a too strongly pro- 
nounced plutocratic development. 

Although land as a rule is not owneM by an 
individual, movable objects generally are con- 
sidered private property. This development is 
especially distinct in West Africa, where dues are 
collected for membership in the secret societies. 
The institution of the secret societies, especially 
in Melanesia and Africa, was a more important 
factor in the execution and development of the 
law of these tribes than the chieftain or the council 
of elders. 

Executive and legislative powers among the Ekoi 
of north-western Cameroons, for instance, lie in 
the hands of the Ewingbe secret society, ewi mean- 
ing law, ngbe standing for leopard society. Public 
laws may be accepted or rejected by its members. 
As the highest court of appeal in all trials, it em- 
phasizes an institution unknown to the peoples of 
the acquisitive group. Admission to the secret 
society and advancement into its higher degrees 
usually depend upon the payment of an entry fee. 
Anyone is free to leave the society, but the advan- 
tages of membership are such that this practically 
never occurs. The legislative powers of these 
secret societies often exert an authoritative type 







Museum of 

Ethnology, Berlin of jurisdiction which deeply influences the demo- 
cratic and introvert little communities. Only in 
culturally younger groups is this jurisdiction turned over to the 
constituted village community represented by the chief and by the 
palaver (council) of the elders. 

What such a trial is actually like may be illustrated by the 
following example. If, for instance, a Bakosi creditor claims a goat 
which his debtor refuses to deliver he appeals to the members of 
the Losango society to help him. The secret society plants its 
insignia in front of the debtor's hut. This usually works at once. 
For this service the society also receives a goat from the debtor. 


If the debt is not paid immediately, and if the society's insignia 
has to remain in front of the debtor's hut until the next morning, 
a head of cattle has to be paid, which is eaten by the members of 
the society. It is no wonder that any debtor hurries to satisfy his 
creditor and the secret society. 

If a man has seduced another man's wife and refuses to pay him 
damages the secret society interferes in a similar way. Among the 
Basa, the Mungi and Um secret societies decide in nocturnal 
meetings on orders, verdicts, and penalties (the latter usually the 
death penalty) which are secretly executed. The public reaction 
is the statement : " The Mungi has tried us." Most secret societies 
help every seeker of justice to his rights non-member as well as 

Among such groups of agricultural peoples of the Old World 
larger political alliances extending beyond the village community 
are, as a rule, unknown. The secret societies are their instruments 
of international contacts. Their influence is not limited to village 
or tribe, but extends, especially in West Africa and Melanesia, 
over very large areas, without, however and this is significant 
leading to the formation of larger political alliances or to separate 

This absence of political organization into larger groups is 
typical only in the Old World in America we find among the 
corresponding tribes just an opposite development. The best 
example is the league of the Iroquois. The New York league com- 
prised five, later six, tribes represented by a central council whose 
decisions had to be unanimous. In spite of hereditary leadership, 
this centralized body was of a loosely woven structure. Each of 
the member tribes could fight its own wars or conclude peace 
treaties, so long as the interests of the league were not interfered 

Unlike the custom of the conquering tribes of the Old World 
especially of Africa and Asia the trend towards inter-tribal alliances 
was strong in America, even among tribes which did not have 
the makings of a nation indeed, especially among them. This 
tendency may have been due to the white man's influence, as in the 
case of the Cherokee, who created for themselves a governmental 
organization after the pattern of the United States. The conquest 
of one tribe by another and the resulting formation of classes and 
of autocratic states which was the rule in the Old World, especially 
in Africa, were absent among the Indians who inhabited to-day's 
United States. One exception is the Powhatan empire, which 
extended at the time of its highest power over a region of eight 


thousand square miles and included more than one hundred and 
fifty cities, mostly won by conquests. 

Another fundamental difference between these African and 
American tribes lies in their methods of legal procedure. In 
addition to the right of self-help and the appeal to the secret society, 
the West African natives of the forest region have a well- developed 
trial system before the palaver court which is composed of the 
chief and the elders. The defendant is summoned in various 
ways, either directly by the concerned parties or through the chief. 
Accepted means of evidence are torture, oath, ordeals like the 

After Bernatzik 

drinking of poison, testimony of witnesses, and other visual or 
documentary proofs. The decision of the judges is reached through 
a majority of votes in secret conference, after which the verdict is 
pronounced. A system of * composition ' (where an embarrassed 
debtor pays a reduced amount upon agreement with his creditor) 
dominates the procedure. Vengeance and other painful conse- 
quences are averted by the payment of fines. 

This type of minutely regulated trial procedure is unknown 
among Indian tribes. Except for certain ceremonious and solemn 
declarations of the parties involved, other types of evidence, 
especially the many forms of ordeal, are unknown. 

The economic basis of the culture* of the herdsmen, who have 
no equivalents in America, is so often blended with elements of the 
harvesting and agricultural societies and has been so deeply in- 
fluenced by the high cultures that there are probably no herdsmen 
tribes in their original form left to-day. Thus we find that most 
of the present-day tribes of herdsmen adhere to mixed cultural 
forms. However, despite wide divergences, we can establish 
common traits of government, conditioned by the economic pattern, 


especially among the Central Asiatic and African herdsmen. The 
pastures are always the property of the entire tribe. But, similar 
to conditions in the harvesting cultures, the border-lines are not 
clearly defined, and unauthorized grazing on foreign territory is not 
punished. The tribe, as such, has hardly any legal functions the 
individual principle of the patriarchal family unit predominates. 
This means that the former collectivist element is superseded by in- 
dividualistic tendencies. The large family group, with its brothers, 
nephews, sons, and grandsons, claims even political independence. 

The tribe is ruled by a chieftain, who may be elected or may 
inherit his office from his father. The degree of his influence 
depends on his personality and his generosity, which means that 
it ultimately depends again on public opinion. In making his 
decisions, the chief relies on a council of elders, and he cannot 
release any important decree, especially in regard to land, without 
the consent of the umakarere, as the Herero call them, or the 
White-Beards, as they are known to the Kirghiz. The fact that the 
chief cannot dispose of land was demonstrated to the German 
government on the occasion of the Herero war. The Germans had 
concluded agreements with the chiefs concerning the cession of 
land, but in native eyes the chiefs did not have the right to dispose 
of the land, and war was the result of this ignorance of tribal law. 

Larger political alliances did not originally exist among the 
individualized societies of herdsmen, especially not among the 
camel and horse breeders. It is the concern of the involved parties 
to get their right, especially in cases calling for blood revenge. The 
custom of paying a ' composition ' or the paying of weregild to the 
chief to make up for a committed crime (especially homicide) is not 
an original feature of the herdsman cultures. Where it occurs, 
secondary influences are responsible. 

The most typical feature of the herdsman cultures is the develop- 
ment of personal property and the accumulation of wealth in the 
form of live stock. This favours the development of classes, and 
results in a vertical type of social order in which the distinctions 
between rich and poor become more and more pronounced. This 
line of hierarchic development, however, reaches its fullest extent 
only when it meets and merges with the cultural forms of the 

The law of inheritance in most of these tribes is that of primo- 
geniture (exclusive inheritance by the first-born). Only under 
Mohammedan influences do we find a certain degree of equality of 
inheritance by the heirs. 

In the Old World, especially in Asia and Africa, the societies of 

3 o8 


the herdsmen have brought about great political changes by their 
creation of large states and empires. Their warlike * centrifugal ' 
or extrovert attitude, in contrast to the democratic * centripetal ' or 
introvert tendencies of the agriculturists, has caused acculturations 
and other changes of far-reaching historical consequences. 

Only at the beginning of the 
last century, all phases of a typical 
invasion by herdsmen into the 
tribal land of sedentary agricul- 
turists were demonstrated by the 
warring expeditions of the Fulbe 
against Adamaua. The reason for 
these invasions was of an econ- 
omic nature : they looked for new 
pastures for their zebus. Before 
they became the attackers and 
invaders the Fulbe lived among 
the Negro tribes, merely tolerated 
by them and often even op- 
pressed. For a long time they 
granted to the chieftains of the 
agriculturists even the jus prim<% 
noctis, the right to spend the first 
night with a newly wedded bride. 
But when the great Fulbe leader, 
Scheu Usmanu, called his tribes- 
men together to incite them to 
* holy war ' against the agricultural 
' heathens ' they rose to conquer. The result was the foundation 
of the Sokoto empire between Niger and Shari. 

This Fulbe conquest is about the only instance in recent times 
which permits us to study the process of a meeting of herdsmen 
with farming societies in all its phases and without European 
influence. The Fulbe conquered Adamaua not as cattle herdsmen 
but by their tactical superiority, through their armoured cavalry, 
against which the farming tribes had no effective counter-measures. 
After the submission of the * heathens/ the Fulbe made them 
their tributaries and serfs, and divided all Adamaiia into a series of 
despotically governed states which fully met the conception of 
* state ' even from the point of view of modern sociology. 

Such a state is headed by an emir or sultan, supported by a large 
hierarchy of public servants, mostly recruited from the slaves. In 
Adamaua there is a prime minister or kaigamma y a chief of the armed 


Ivory Carving from an 

Elephant Tusk, 
Sixteenth Century 

West Africa 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 


forces known as ssdrriki n lefidda, and a master of the ceremonies, 
ssaldmma. In addition to these, there is a multitude of lesser 
officials. The country is divided into a number of provinces and 
districts which are governed by vassals, each of whom is a lamido 
of the sultan. In case of war, the lamido has to furnish troops and 
has to flock with them to the ranks. He has to pay an annual 
tribute to his ruler. 

Even the ' minorities ' are represented at the court by their 
own intermediaries and consuls, 
the Galamida, who attend to the 
negotiations between their groups 
and the sultan. 

The land was originally owned by 
the sultan, who boosted his income 
by sales and taxes, among which the 
market toll, collected by the ssdrika 
n kdsua, or bailiff of the markets, 
was especially profitable. 

Legal matters were handled by 
the alkali, a professional judge 
appointed by the sultan, with the 
Koran, the usual Mohammedan 
source of law, as his legal code. 
Among the penalties were mutila- 
tions and punishment by degradation or imprisonment. Murder 
and the theft of slaves or horses as a second offence drew the death 
penalty ; theft was punished by the chopping off of the offender's 
right hand. The insolvent debtor was doomed to serfdom ; and 
blood revenge was replaced by the payment of a fine, part of which 
went to the sultan. 

This sketch of the Fulbe empire furnishes a fairly typical 
example of government among the peoples of the Sudan, from the 
Ewe in the West to the Kafficho in the East. It is also representa- 
tive of the structures of states created by the Mongols and the Huns. 

An American example is the state of the Natchez. Their 
' theocratic ' organization, with the ruler in the dual role of high 
priest and king (his title was Great Sun), knew the same vertical 
principle of social organization. The strictly organized class 
structure knew slaves as its lowest caste, followed by the common 
people, called Stinkards. These were ruled by the nobility, which 
itself was divided into three ranks the Suns, the Nobles, and the 
Honoured Men. 

The law permitted no marriages within the same group, but only 


After Bernatzik 


from one into another. Thus the Suns, even the king and his 
sister, could choose their mates only from the ranks of the Stinkards. 
In general, the children belonged to their mother's class, but when 
a nobleman married a daughter of the people their children belonged 
to the nobility. 

Advancement into a higher class was possible through bravery in 
war or through specially prescribed, often cruel, religious services 
rendered to the king and therewith to the state. By these means a 
Stinkard could become an Honoured Man and an Honoured Man 
a Noble but only personal nobility could thus be acquired, as the 
children did not inherit it. The position of a war chief was open 
only to the Nobles and to the Suns. 

Even in this type of society the old dislike of any absolutism 
embodied in one single individual, the person of the king a 
characteristic attitude of all Indian tribes created the restrictive 
measure that in vital matters of peace and war an elected council 
of old chieftains and warriors made their decisions independently 
from the ruler. The final decision rested with them, not with the 
king. The classes had to pay tribute to the king, who also was, 
though with certain limitations, the overlord who controlled the 
territorial rights. 

These last examples indicate the development towards the well- 
known constitutional and legal structures of the high cultures. 
Here the whole impact of legal procedure cases, rules, norms, etc. 
was written down and recorded for the benefit of the population 
and of future generations. However, not the law cases and the 
legal ways of peoples with written history reveal best the history 
of the origin of legal institutions, but the law- ways of the relatively 
oldest peoples on this earth. 

Are we justified in speaking of law and legal norms even with 
reference to the most ancient primitive tribes in the earliest stages 
of civilization ? 

Indeed we are, because there is no chaos, but law and order. 
The rules of law permeate the whole life of the community. The 
pressure from outside and public opinion within the society are the 
strongest regulating factors. The ownership of land originally is 
collective, and belongs to the local group ; -only the usufruct is 
sometimes allotted to a group of families or to a single family. The 
cultivation of land in itself does not create ownership. Even in 
the empires of the Sudan and of Ethiopia, where the land 
belonged to the king, land was not private property in our sense, 
for the king-priest was at once a demigod and an individual who 
was killed if the welfare of the people demanded it. The land 


belonged to him only in his capacity as personification of the state. 
Food also was originally collective property. Connected with this 
is the collective responsibility of the group for the individual's 
food supply. 

The development of private property shows definite beginnings 
among the harvesters, who are also characterized by their stronger 
development of * copyright J law and of inter-tribal law. The right 
of asylum is found among the harvesters, herdsmen, and Polynesians, 
and its further development may be traced to the Greek and 
Mexican temples. The differentiation of classes has been most 
strongly developed among the herdsmen and the Polynesians. 

This much, however, should be clear : that among aborigines 
very close relations exist between government and land ; that 
the land belongs to the clan, the tribe, or the people, but not to the 
individual ; and that also with regard to the provision of food the 
community bears the responsibility for a well-working system of 
social security. 

Among the primitives it is not the individual who is eternal, but 
the people, the land, the law. 


Magic and the Powers of the Unknown 

THE WORLD OF primitive man is a world of magic. In the 
beginning there was power. This wonderful power is omni- 
present, and its existence is as certain as the hardness of stone and 
the wetness of water, as all-pervading as the ether in modern physics. 

This power, supernatural only 
to modern man, but completely 
real and natural to the primi- 
tives, is known to them by many 
different names. To the Malayo- 
Polynesians it is mana\ among 
the Iroquois Indians it is orenda\ 
among the Sioux, wakan\ among 
|f. /* the Algonquians, manitou. To 
recognize the workings of this 
power, to have part in it, to use 
Ij-Cl it, and to master it these are 
the aims of primitive man. In 
his world there are no coinci- 
y dences everything has its causes 
'-" and associations ; to discover 
It these is the task of man. 

In our minds the relationship 
!" between cause and effect is the 
i result of our logical thinking, 
MAGIC MASK AGAINST THE PLAGUE based especially on our experi- 
Liberia ences in the natural sciences. In 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne the minds of primitive men cause 
J and effect are not restricted to 

the small domain of the physical world, but they are associated 
with the powers and phenomena beyond the visible world. To 
the primitive this all-pervading power is completely natural, 
because to his way of thinking the supernatural is a concrete 
reality. What we would call a phenomenon of faith is to him a 
manifestation of knowledge. All his actions and thoughts are 
guided by this magic conception of the association and inter - 
related participation of all things and elements of the visible and 
the invisible worlds. The effort to influence and utilize these 
mystical powers is called magic. 



Belief in the forces of magic not only is distributed all over the 
world and constitutes the oldest form of a philosophy of life and of 
religion, it has also survived the millenniums and exists even in our 
time. To the primitive, each thing be it animate or inanimate 
possesses certain magic powers and qualities. While we know that 
similar causes will, under equal conditions, result in similar effects, 
primitive man does not recognize the eternal laws of nature. For 
this reason he attributes such phenomena as are without visibly 
evident causes, like illness, death, success, bad luck, rain, storm, and 
the rising of the sun, to certain magic powers inherent in all things. 

Among the oldest forms of magic are those which deal with the 
obtaining of food. But the individual does not alone take part in 
the magic ritual : the whole group of hunters who, among the 
oldest acquisitive tribes, are the economic unit, combine their 
magic powers in one mighty ceremony. The caves of prehistoric 
man furnish evidence of such magic performances. The picture 
of the prey the bear, the buffalo, the deer was identical with the 
living animal itself in the mind of prehistoric man. When he 
pierced the image with his spear the success of the coming hunt 
was guaranteed. The Australians of to-day substitute for the 
ochre paintings of prehistoric man their sand drawings of the prey 
animals which are speared by the participants in the ceremony to 
safeguard the success of the next day's hunt. 

The same magic result is attained when the symbolic image is 
replaced by symbolic gestures. In this case the magic ritual does 
not consist in the drawing and spearing of the game animal but in 
its pantomimic imitation. Such magico-realistic dances, which 
imitate the behaviour of the prey, are customary with the Australians 
and with many North American Indian tribes. A derivation of 
both methods is the manufacture by the medicine-man of a grass 
or cloth image of the animal, to be hung up in his hut, where it is 
shot or speared. 

Similar magic performances serve to safeguard and increase the 
principal food plants of the tribe. In Australia the gathering of 
fruits and tubers is pantomimically imitated. Stones which play 
the role of the desired root are dug up and symbolically tucked away 
in the gathering basket. In the white world these magic rites have 
survived in the erection of the may-pole, although its original 
significance has deteriorated during the course of history. In some 
regions a young tree, preferably birch or fir, is ceremoniously 
brought in from the woods during Whitsuntide. Occasionally a 
young man, covered with leaves and flowers from head to toe, plays 
the part of the tree. In these celebrations the magic effect is no 


longer evoked for one or a few specified plants the may-pole and 
its variations have become the symbol of all growth, dedicated to 
the worship of the old fertility demon. 

Not only animals and plants, but also the forces of nature are 
subjects of magic performances. The rising of the sun, the falling 
of the rain, are encouraged by symbolic actions, inspired by the 
belief that human neglect in this respect would cause the cessation 
of their beneficial effects. The sun would no longer shine, the 
rain no longer fall, if man in his tireless efforts did not force them 
to do their work. 

Most prominent among these magic performances are those in 
which fire represents the symbolic element that invigorates the 
strength of the sun. Especially during the time of the declining 
year, when the winter solstice approaches, the sun is imagined as 
being tired, and is encouraged by magic flaming pyres. 

Such ceremonies, as for instance among the Navaho Indians, are 
of impressive beauty. When night has fallen a gigantic pile in the 
middle of a pine-hedged clearing is lit and kept aflame until the 
break of dawn. The celebrants appear, their hair falling to their 
shoulders, their faces and bodies painted with white clay in imitation 
of the white colour of the sun. These imitators are the ' wandering 
suns.' Feather- trimmed dancing sticks in their hands, they leap 
towards the pyre to dance in closed procession around the flames. 
Imitating the course of the sun, they move from east to west and 
back. Although the glowing heat of the fire is by now almost 
prohibitive, the dancers try to approach as closely as possible, to 
set on fire the feather balls at the tips of their staffs. When one 
succeeds and the little ball has burned down he immediately replaces 
it by a new feather ring held in readiness the symbol of the new 
sun and shouts of joy echo all round. 

The climax of the ceremony is the symbolic imitation of the 
sunrise. It begins with the appearance of sixteen men who carry 
in a basket the image of the sun. Assembling round a tall pole, 
they sing and dance. Suddenly they move backwards while, 
slowly and majestically, the image is hoisted on the pole and dwells 
on its top for a few impressive minutes, after which it sinks back 
and disappears again. 

The approach of dawn terminates the ceremony. The white- 
painted dancers reappear to light a piece of cedar bark in the 
now smouldering fire, to fight for it in a mock dance, and to leap 
over the dying flames. The pine hedge surrounding the cere- 
monial place had only one entrance in the beginning to the 
east, whence the sun arrives. When the real sun starts its journey 



in the sky openings are made in the east, west, south, and north 
to indicate that the sun sends out its rays in all directions. 

The picture of the * sun ' in the middle of a clearing and of 
the four entrances of the hedge appear on many objects of Indian 
art, and the Mexican fire-god is addressed as ' master of the four 
directions." When the four lines of this drawn symbol are led 
to the centre of the sun ball the resulting ornament is a cross ; 
and the multi-shaped 
crosses so frequent in 
the decorative art of 
the North American 
Indians are nothing 
more than symbolic 
drawings of the sun. 

Similar ceremonies, 
though not always so 
elaborate, are held by 
many other primitive 
tribes. On dreary, 
overcast mornings the 
South African Bechuana 
decide to invite the 
sun to penetrate the 
clouds. The chieftain 
of the sun clan lights a 
new fire in his home, 
tribesman comes to take INDIANS 

one glowing ember into Guatemala 

his own hut. Museum of Ethnology , Cologne 

All fire cults originate 

in sun worship, however their individual forms may vary, as among 
the Hindus, the Parsee, the ancient Mexicans, and elsewhere. 
The fire is always the representative of the sun. 

Of no less importance are the manifold forms of rain magic, 
since the blessings of the rain are as important for the vegetation 
as those of the sun. An imitation of the rain always stands in 
the centre of these ceremonies. Water is poured on the soil 
or, as in some places in Australia, even blood, which drips from 
an opened vein. Strewn-about down feathers symbolize the 
clouds. Occasionally small quartz crystals are thrown over the 
women, who protect themselves from the ' rain ' with pieces 
of bark. Agricultural tribes in times of drought spill water over 


their plantations or twirl water in an ' inviting ' way to induce 
the rain to join in. 

The magic relationship exists not only between a thing and 
its analogous imitation equally mystical is the connexion between 
a thing and its name. Even philosophers like Plato and Aristotle 
believed that the name of a thing is contained in it like an 
invisible kernel and that the name determines its very nature. 
Only during the last two thousand years have the Middle 
European peoples developed the idea that words are mere symbols 
for the objects they designate and that the things exist independently 
from the names by which we describe them. The older a culture, 
the stronger is the idea that a thing and its name are almost one, 
and this belief is the origin of the magic formula and the magic 
word or exclamation. Often the pantomimic imitation of the 
desired being or object is blended with the magic of words or names, 
and some Australian tribes ' fortify * their fertility dances by 
ceremoniously pronouncing the names of their prey animals. 

While these magic performances relating to food and the forces 
of nature like sun and rain are of a challenging and positive nature, 
another type of magic which deals with the influencing of human 
beings is often of a more or less negative kind. The probable 
origin of the magic directed towards a person is the instinctive 
gesture of emotion. Even we may unconsciously clench our 
fist when we think of an enemy who is absent or whom convention 
forbids us to call to account. The same emotional reaction came 
to primitive man, who, carrying his weapons almost constantly, 
instinctively made certain symbolic gestures of threat with them. 
If, by chance, the enemy was stricken with illness or died shortly 
afterwards it appeared logical to assume that the initial gesture 
was the cause of the desired effect. Once such a causative relation- 
ship was established it led to the conviction that a threatening 
gesture necessarily caused the hated man's illness or death. The 
gesture consequently developed into a consciously applied magic 
action which was bound to bring about the destruction of the 
hated individual. The technique of * personal magic ' is founded 
on this conviction. 

The Orang Benua of the Malaccan Peninsula believe that 
certain wizards of their ranks have the power to kill an enemy 
at long distance by simply holding a dagger or some other weapon 
in the direction of his home. Certain Australian aborigines 
throw magic arrows fashioned from human bones in the direction 
of the prospective victim. They believe that such an arrow 
flies on until it reaches the doomed man, whose body it penetrates 


without leaving visible injury, resulting in sudden illness and 
possibly death. Other tribes use for the same purpose a miniature 
spear, which is thrown in the darkness while the magician deeply 
inhales and exhales. Finally, only a pointed bone or piece of wood 
is used as the magic tool, over which magic words are sung or 

The frightful fact is that a man who knows himself the victim 
of such witchcraft often actually dies from it, because his belief 
in the effectiveness of the performance is as strong as that of his 
destroyers. When, in Australia, a native finds among his belong- 
ings a strangely shaped pointed bone whose significance is 
unmistakable he suffers such a violent emotional shock that he 
begins to ail, refuses to accept food, and sometimes succumbs to 
the strain. Powers stronger than he and even his enemies have 
spoken ; he is doomed to die. 

All such magic illnesses, they believe, are caused by an alien 
object, such as bone, wood, stone, or the like, and it is the task 
of the medicine- man to remove the foreign substance from the 
body of the victim if the latter is to survive. He does this by 
sucking, squeezing, singing, and other such actions, and all skilful 
wizards have their own private secrets of how to produce the 
visible evidence. 

This oldest type of personal magic has produced a great variety 
of younger forms which all draw their magic effectiveness from 
some act of analogy. Minute details of the desired sufferings 
of the victims are acted out to make sure that they will be so 

When, in Kamchatka, a thief cannot be identified animal sinews 
are thrown into the fire. It is assumed that the corresponding 
sinews in the body of the criminal will pucker up painfully to 
betray him. In some regions of Europe a jilted girl pierces at 
midnight the picture of her unfaithful lover with a pin or pierces 
a candle standing next to the picture, saying the words : " I 
pierce the light, I pierce the heart I love," whereupon she believes 
that the betrayer of her love is bound to die. 

Intestinal pains are often ascribed to the doings of demons 
who tie knots in the bowels. No wonder, therefore, that the 
Lapps do not want * demon-inviting ' knots in any part of their 
clothing. The idea that witches cause pains by tying knots in 
parts of the human body still prevails in some rural regions of 

In Arabia a guilty criminal is identified by a magic performance of 
analogy. A medicine-man assembles the entire village population 


around him in a circle. All sit down while he drives a huge 
nail into the soil, singing and murmuring mystical formulas. 
In the end he says, " Rise ! " and all stand up. Only one cannot 
move his limbs and remains bound to the ground the criminal, 
whose own belief in the infallibility of the probe makes it effective. 

The idea of the so-called * tree of life ' is another instance of 
analogous personal magic. In this case the destiny of a human 
being is tied to that of a freshly planted or chosen tree, and 
whatever happens to the tree will befall its human counterpart. 

But symbolic magic actions may be used not only to bewitch 
a person, they may also serve to lift the spell cast by hostile 
influences or as a preventive precaution. 

Some European villagers treat a thigh fracture by putting a 
broken leg of a chair in splints. Many * purification ' ceremonies 
are for the purpose of removing morbific agents from a human 
body. Ailing people, especially rheumatics, squeeze themselves 
through the narrow space between two columns in the mosque 
of Kairouan in Tunisia to * rid ' themselves of their pains by 
rubbing them off. The Japanese during their festivals of puri- 
fication jump through hoops of woven grass to protect themselves 
from diseases, and the Kamchatkans crawl through wooden rings 
to purify their bodies and their souls alike. The Christian 
ceremony of baptism purifies preventively the soul of the new 
member of the Church. 

The drawn image of the prey animal, so often the centre of 
magic hunting ceremonies in the earliest cultures, has its later 
equivalent in the picture of an individual at whom an act of 
analogous magic is aimed. The picture of a part of a person or 
of a thing may be likewise used for magic purposes. Whatever 
happens to the picture will also happen to its real counterpart. 

The action of the girl who symbolically pierces a candle to 
' kill ' her unfaithful lover follows a similar belief. Her magic 
would be a genuine example of * effigy magic ' if she would substi- 
tute a waxen heart for the candle. Magic actions with the help 
of an effigy are known all over the earth. On the Malaccan 
Peninsula small human effigies are formed from beeswax to cast an 
evil spell over their ' originals.' When an eye of the little figure 
is pierced blindness will befall the victim ; piercing the head 
causes head ailments ; piercing of the waist-line will result in 
stomach ulcers, and so forth. If death is the desired result the 
effigy must be pierced from head to toe, and must be treated in 
all details as though it were the body of a deceased person. 

Some American Indians melt down a waxen image to ' kill ' 



the person in whose likeness it was shaped, or they burn a straw 
doll representing the victim. The Malays * cause ' marital trouble 
by tying the figures of a man and his wife together, back to back, 
so that they * look away from each other/ 

Effigy magic of this type is by no means restricted to primi- 
tive cultures alone. It was practised 
in historic times, and has lived 
on even in our day. The Romans 
considered it the logical means of 
getting rid of an enemy. After 
shaping his likeness in wax or lead, 
they destroyed the effigy, murmuring 
magic formulas to kill the victim. 
The mediaeval custom of hanging a 
person in effigy still lives on in our 
time. Even in modern Styria a waxen 
doll bewitched with the help of mys- 
terious words is pierced with a needle 
in the region of its * heart ' to cause 
the illness or death of the original. 
Rural people in northern England 
still believe the story of the woman 
who began to ail until she was a 
mere bundle of skin and bones. No 
physician could help her, but when 
she turned to the miraculous village 
quack he told her to look for objects 
that might bring her bad luck. She 
finally found a sheep's heart, com- 
pletely pierced with pins. After 

destroying it, she got well again. The sheep's heart had been 
used as a magic substitute for her own heart. 

Corresponding to the active effigy magic, the preventive magic 
with the help of symbolic pictures or objects has developed. 
Just as the picture of a person or his heart may be used to injure 
the corresponding parts of the living body, similar facsimiles 
may serve to chase the cause of sickness away. In regions where 
an evil spirit is supposed to have entered a human body, to strike 
him with an ailment, a figure of this spirit often in the shape 
of an animal is stabbed or shot. The practice of chasing away 
a scapegoat, as we know it from the Bible, originates in the ancient 
' healing ' method of chasing away the demon that caused the 
disease. Only after the development of the conception of * sin/ 

Zulu, South Africa 

Museum of Ethnology, 


the scapegoat became the medium through which a family or a 
people was ridded from guilt. On their Day of Atonement the 
Jews burdened a goat or a bird with all the sins of their people to 
chase it into the desert. The Badaga of India ' load ' a young 
steer at a funeral with all the sins of the departed, and drive him 
away with much noise. 

Where ailments are understood as a punishment inflicted by 
the gods, a picture of the sick person or of the sick part of his 
body is dedicated to the divine power in the hope that fie may take 
away the curse. The votive sacrifices of the Catholics originate 
in this belief. Whole figures of all kinds of materials are dedicated 
to the saints, or hearts, legs, feet, arms, and the like are laid on 
the altar to cure the limbs and inner organs of the sick. Heinrich 
Heine has described this pious faith in his poem " The Pilgrimage 
to Ke velar " : 

Who sacrifices a waxen hand, 

Will cure his manual wound 

Who gives the Saints a waxen foot 

Will heal his ailing limb. 

In Bavaria life-sized heads are shaped from burnt clay by the 
sufferers from chronic head diseases. Filled with barley, they 
are hung up in trees passed by a holy procession. In miraculous 
places like Lourdes the crutches and the braces of the healed 
fill, as gifts of gratitude, whole chapels, and in the beautiful church 
of Notre Dame de la Garde, which towers over the harbour of 
Marseilles, hundreds of ship models dangle from the arches the 
votive gifts of captains whose ships were saved by the Madonna 
in a storm or who wish to protect their vessels by magic means 
before they sail on a long trip. 

A variety of this pictorial magic is the belief that the shadow 
of a living being is a part of him or even his soul. If an alligator 
* catches ' the shadow of a Basuto Negro he must die. On the 
Solomon Islands a man who steps on the shadow of the king 
is punished by death ; and in the Malayan archipelago the piercing 
of a man's shadow causes his illness. An ancient Swabian law 
granted satisfaction to a freeman who had been insulted by a serf 
by ceremoniously hitting the shadow of the offender in the neck. 

The widespread reluctance to have one's picture painted or 
one's photograph taken goes back to the same root. Many primi- 
tives believe that the man who owns the portrait of another man 
has thereby magic powers over him, and in the Casbah of Algiers 
it is still to-day a hazardous endeavour to photograph the picturesque 
surroundings and their inhabitants. The artist Kane, who painted 


an Indian chieftain, was afterwards solemnly questioned whether 
he had not planted the seed of the chieftain's possible illness, 
and when his model was finally consoled with a gift of tobacco 
he remarked that this was too small a gift for having risked his 
life. The harassed painter finally made a copy of the picture, 
which he publicly destroyed as the alleged original, to appease the 
feelings of the worried tribe. 

In the belief that the portraying of an individual would do 
harm to his soul, Mohammed forbade all pictorial representations 
of human beings. For this reason his mosques have remained 
pictureless up to the present day. 

The name of a person has the same magic qualities as his 
shadow or picture. The citation of spirits, demons, or deceased 
persons is often accomplished by the mere pronunciation of their 
names, often in repetition, as in Faust : " You have to say it 
thrice." The fear that the knowledge of a person's name might 
expose him to acts of magic revenge has led certain Australian 
tribes to the custom of giving names only to children who are 
too young to have enemies. As soon as they reach puberty the 
individual name is dropped and they are merely referred to as 
father, brother, uncle, and so forth. 

In Gippsland, a south-eastern region of Australia, personal 
names were a strictly guarded tribal secret, so that no outsider 
could harm their bearers by evil magic. Most American Indians 
refrain from mentioning names, and merely move their lips in 
the direction of the person they speak about. Sometimes a nick- 
name is substituted for the real one, to protect its bearer a 
custom very frequent among our own modern criminals. In 
Abyssinia no wizard has power over a person whose real name 
he does not know. To many tribes the mere mentioning of 
their chieftain's or ruler's name is taboo, and in Borneo the name 
of a sick child is changed to give it a new lease of life with a new 

Closely related to the name-magic is the word-magic in general. 
The threatening gesture towards an absent enemy is often 
intensified by a spoken curse, or by the words " You shall die," 
or " I kill you ! " When the symbolic action is dropped altogether 
and the verbal threat exclusively is substituted for it the power 
of the word- magic appears in its strongest form. 

All solemn declarations, oaths, and curses go back to this root, 
and even our courts of law add the " So help me God ! " to the 
testimony of a witness. The so-called ordeals have the same 
origin : God or the supernatural shall decide in a public test 




whether or not a man spoke the truth and is or is not a criminal. 
During an ordeal the guilty or innocent individual must hold 
a dangerous object, eat or drink poison, or walk through fire, 
to prove his alleged innocence. The outcome decides his fate. 
Sometimes the * poison ' drunk at such occasions is in fact harmless, 
and only the guilty conscience and the firm 
belief of the tested in the miraculous qualities 
of the liquid give him away. Where real poison 
is used, vomiting is taken for a proof of guilt- 
lessness ; the guilty criminal, unable to spit out 
the deadly drink, must die. 

The written name of a person may be used 
in the same way as his picture or his spoken 
name. To increase the magic powers over an 
effigy to be bewitched, the Hindus write the 
victim's name on the moulded figure ; and the 
Balinese doom a man by writing his name on a 
shroud or bier which they bury in his stead. 
The name of a man, written on a piece of paper, 
may be symbolically hanged or burnt to destroy 
its bearer. A combination of the writing of holy 
or unholy names with the use of magic objects 
developed the amulet, the talisman, and the 
good-luck charm. All over the Mohammedan 
world we find the custom of carrying mystical 
phrases, Koran quotations, and other written 
symbols on scraps of paper in little bags used 
as good-luck charms or talismans. 

A native of Upper Guinea once displayed 
proudly his magic amulet to a white explorer : 
Ethnology, Cologne it was a piece of paper warning in German script 
that its owner was the greatest rogue of the region. 
To increase the power of the written word, the Mohammedans 
sometimes dissolve the writing in water to drink it, or they drink 
water from a metal bowl in which the magic word or sentence 
is engraved. When the medical prescription cannot be quickly 
obtained the Chinese doctor writes it down in ink which is dissolved 
and drunk by the patient, or the prescription is burnt and the 
ashes are eaten by the sick man. Among the Japanese it was 
customary to write the words of a solemn oath on paper, burn it, 
and eat the ashes. If the swearer was a liar the ashes would act 
as a poison to kill him. 

Other powerful magic contrivances consist of substances taken 


Batak, Borneo 

Museum of 



from a person to cast an evil spell over him. Such things as 
nails, hair, saliva, and even shreds of garments, parts of weapons, 
etc., are considered to be parts of the individual, part of his spirit 
or soul, which can be dealt with as though they were the person 
himself. The distribution of this custom is world-wide. 

On the Moluccas one kills an enemy by collecting his discarded 
betel plug, some of his hair, and a shred from his garment, and 
distributing this mixture in three bamboo cylinders, one of which 
is buried under a coffin, the second buried under the steps of the 

West Africa 

Museum of Ethnology y 

Manyema, Congo 
Lindenmuseum, Stuttgart 

victim's house, and the third thrown into the sea. This is supposed 
to kill him unfailingly. 

From this magic belief developed the custom of destroying 
immediately all such possible tokens of witchcraft. If the Mua- 
tajamwo, a mighty Central African ruler, spits, a slave immedi- 
ately buries the evidence, flattens the soil over it, and makes the 
spot indistinguishable. The South Sea chieftains are constantly 
followed by an attendant carrying a spittoon whose contents are 
secretly disposed of. 

In southern Bohemia it is still regarded as dangerous to leave 
dust or rubbish before the house because witches may learn from 
it what is going on in the house and do their evil planning accord- 
ingly. In Moravia cut-off hair must be burnt ; in old Scotland 
discarded hair and nail parings were always burnt. 

Since magic with discarded personal substances is considered 
the cause of many ailments sick people try to buy back these 
substances from the alleged wizard. On the New Hebrides the 


medicine-men earn a comfortable living by collecting all kinds 
of rubbish to sell back to its owners. On the island of Tana all 
natives carry small baskets, in which they carefully collect their 
scraps and destroy them by * drowning ' when they pass a current 
of water. In Australia the Narrinyeri men try to get hold of 
as many bones as possible from which other persons have eaten 
the meat. In this way they gain power over the fate of their 
fellow- tribesmen, and if one of them should become jan enemy 
he can easily be dealt with by magic means. 

The many believers in love-magic, which is practised all over 
the world, often make similar use of belongings or bodily substances 
of the beloved to force him or her to return the feelings of the 
forsaken. Most often such substances are tied into a small bundle 
and made even more effective by magic adjurations. How such 
magic is performed, for instance among the Hopi Indians, has 
been described by Beaglehole : 

A man who ardently desires a certain girl steals some of her hair, 
her saliva, a piece of her shawl, or some threads from her woven 
belt. These objects, together with a prayer feather, he ties up in 
a package. He prays that the girl will desire him, and puts the 
package in his pocket or under his belt. The girl becomes " on 
fire under her navel " and as* long as he carries the package she visits 
him every night. This love-magic is dangerous. The girl and the 
man may go mad with love and kill themselves. The bait objects 
are disposed of by burial when the man becomes tired of the girl : he 
makes a new package if he desires another mistress. 

A quaint form of personal magic is the use of the tracks left 
by a person in walking or sitting on the ground. Such tracks 
may be dug out and dried in a container as the soil fades, so 
also fades away the health of the victim. The Malayans shape 
the soil of the tracks into figures, which they roast or ' kill.' This 
type of magic is also used by lovers who want to force the objects 
of their affections to return their feelings. Girls of the southern 
Slavonic countries dig up the earth from the footprints of their 
non-responsive sweethearts to plant a * fadeless J marigold in it. 
Like the flower, her lover's affection will now bloom and never 

The magic world-view is most strongly developed in the oldest 
forms of human culture. Among the agriculturists it recedes 
in favour of a strongly accentuated belief in the powers of the 
dead and their souls, to reach a new height in the ancient high 

In our own civilization the atavistic faith in magic powers is 


still of marked prevalence, despite all modern scientific achieve- 
ments. Especially in times of great danger and great emotional 
stress, the world-view of the primitive captures a percentage 
even of ' enlightened ' minds. During the Second World War 
many soldiers in shell-holes and cockpits clung to the encourage- 
ment provided by some kind of lucky charm or amulet. The type 
of objects chosen for this purpose was closely related to the magic 
contrivances cherished by primitive man. 

Although we find even in the cultures of the hunters and food 
gatherers a belief in the powers of the spirits of the dead and the 
notion that the deceased continue to exist somehow and somewhere 
this belief is not yet strong enough to shape the philosophy of these 
cultures and to prevail over the purely magic element. This 
occurs only in the cultures of the agriculturists. Their form 
of economics and their settled form of life which permit no 
physical and spiritual escape from ' hostile ' powers put the worship 
of the dead into the centre of their world-view and of their entire 
lives. To the primitive mind there is nothing natural in the 
phenomenon of death. It is an event brought about by some kind 
of magic. A mystical power, stronger than that of the deceased, 
has succeeded in subduing him, and has robbed him of his capacity 
to live. 

Our term for this power of life wnich is present in the living 
body and which leaves it at death is the soul. Although the con- 
ceptions of its intrinsic properties and its location are among 
primitive men heterogeneous indeed it may be identified with 
a man's breath or bodily warmth, his heart, blood, brains, liver, 
kidneys, his shadow or reflection it is always the something 
which enables him to be alive. That this mysterious being, this 
soul, is not inseparably connected with the body seems to be 
proved by the phenomenon of the dream. What else could 
dreams be but the adventures of the soul on its independent 
excursions, while the body is asleep ? It is, therefore, taken for 
granted that the soul has the capacity of existing outside the body. 

The logical conclusion, then, is that at the moment of death 
the soul leaves its body permanently. Wherever people believe 
in a land of the souls, they often answer the question of the cause 
of death with the assertion that the soul has grown tired of the 
ways of the world and therefore has separated itself from it. 
This, however, is a secondary interpretation. In the beginning, 
only magic influences are believed responsible for the separation 
of body and soul. These magic influences are the results of 
witchcraft. They are crimes committed by others, and many 



practices and customs have been developed to identify and to punish 
the guilty sorcerer. 

What, now, are the activities of this emancipated spirit or soul ? 
Where does it go ? Very widespread is the belief that it dwells 
in the shape of a shadow near the grave although often only for 
a limited time or that it moves about within the tribal territory, 
just as the living do. As a parallel conception we find, even in the 
earliest cultures, as, for instance, among 
the Central Australian tribes, the idea that 
the souls move on to a clearly defined place 
reserved for them. When a child is born 
one of the old souls has left its refuge to 
enter the body of the mother-to-be. When 
the child grows up and later dies his soul 
simply returns to the land of the spirits of 
the dead whence it may or may not return 
in further rebirths. This ancient belief in 
a round of rebirths, found even among the 
most primitive peoples, is the germ cell 
of the conception of reincarnation which 
reached its highest development in the 
Indian high culture. 

A variety of additional conceptions further 
amplifies this old idea. When a man has 
SKIN been killed by an alligator or tiger his soul 
lives on in these animals. If he drowns he 
transforms himself into an aquatic spirit ; 
if a plant grows on his grave the soul of 
the dead body beneath lives on in it. 

- ~ , TT rf Worms that appear near the corpse, or 
After Carl von Hoffmann t^n- u j a- u-j 

butterflies, bugs, dragon-mes, birds, or, 

especially, lizards and snakes, may be regarded as the new in- 
corporations of the soul. The dying individual may even choose 
the type of creature in which he desires to live on. 

Very often a clear distinction is made between the status of the 
soul before and after the burial of the body. As long as no funeral 
has taken place, the soul remains near the body as a threatening 
ghost, and may even appear to the living in many dreadful 
disguises. In places where two successive burials are customary 
the soul dwells near the body all the time until the final rites have 
taken place. A person who for some reason received no formal 
funeral at all will be condemned to a permanent existence as a 
restless ghost who haunts the living. Only a final and orderly 




funeral delivers the soul, so to speak. The soul is now free to 
travel to its home the land of the souls as the tribe in question 
conceives it. Sometimes it is identical with the land from which 
the ancestors came, and which, long ago abandoned by the 
migrating tribe, nevertheless still is their home. 

Often the location of the land of the souls is directly connected 
with the course of the sun. The sun-god is the guide who leads 
the souls of the departed to their new dwellings. On the Solomon 
Islands they enter the ocean together with the setting sun. This 
conception is closely related to the belief that the sun is born 
while rising in the morning and dies in the evening. Because 
there were no living beings on earth prior to the sun he was the 
first to be born and the first to die. A Polynesian myth closes 
with the thought that if Maui the sun-god had not died the humans 
who came after him also would not have to die. 

The sun sometimes may actually be the cause of death : the 
sun-god spears the mortals from heaven with his rays and pulls 
them up to his land. Or he catches them with the net of his 
rays and kills them afterwards with his spear. If the sun is 
imagined as a spider in its net of rays it is a sorceress who catches 
the humans in this net to devour them. For this reason the 
Mexican death gods are symbolized fc>y spiders. Where the sun- 
god climbs on tows or ladders into the sky (symbolized by his 
rays), the same path is followed by the souls on their travel to 
their heavenly dwelling-place. This is the origin of the ladders 
in Jacob's dream on which angels climb up and down angels 
being the personified souls of the dead. In New Zealand vines 
lead down to Havaiki, the land of the souls, and on the same 
vines the souls of the ancestors once climbed up to earth. In 
the old Congo Kingdom the sun priest was not allowed to die 
an ordinary death, but had to hang himself on a rope up which 
he could climb to the sun. 

A bridge may lead to the sun, or a boat or canoe comes to 
transport the souls of the deceased to the better land of the sun. 
Charon, the Greek ferryman, whose boat brings the souls of the 
dead to the nether world over the Styx, is of the same origin. 

Not only bridges or boats may carry the souls to their new 
domicile ; animals and, especially, birds may call for them to 
guide them to the land of the dead. From this idea the conception 
that the soul itself is equipped with wings has developed. Ancient 
Egyptian representations show clearly the interjacent stage of 
development in which the human figure and the forms of birds 
are combined in one being. The falcon god Horus of ancient 



Egypt is of a definitely solar character ; Horus was the typical 

title of all kings of dynastic 
and pre-dynastic times. Their 
powers centred in the sun city, 
Heliopolis, whose ruler the king 
was known by the title of Har- 
achte (" Horus who lives in the 
horizon "), and the combination 
of bird and sun indicated his 
supernatural powers over men 
and souls. In the Christian con- 
ceptions the wings of the soul 
bird have become the attribute 
of the angels. 

The sun itself may be pictured 
as a bird. As an ancient re- 
minder of this idea, we still tell small children that babies are 


New Guinea 
After Chalmers-Weule 




After V. Sydow 



brought by a stork and that he fetches them from a pond or lake. 
In many ancient lands the sun rose from the waters, and the 
stork, on account of his red legs, is believed to be connected with 
fire and thereby with the sun. 

Closely related to the different conceptions of the travels of 
the soul are the many forms of primitive burials, all of which 
originated either in the ancient fear of the 
spirits of the dead or, as among the agricul- 
turists, are influenced by the effort to make 
fruitful use of the powers of the souls for 
the benefit of the surviving community. By 
noise or ruse the souls are tricked into the 
abandonment of their * evil ' intentions, or 
they are bribed with food and presents to 
stay where they are and not to return to 
the living. In later cultures this idea has 
led to the custom of burying not only cloth- 
ing, weapons, and ornaments with the dead, 
but having them accompanied by the souls 
of pets, riding and pack animals, and even 
slaves and women killed in their honour 
during the funeral ceremonies. As many 
human beings as possible were killed to 
please the departing soul, so that his spirit 
would not feel lonely and would not desire 
to bring suffering to the living. 

Since all souls are believed to crave com- 
pany it seemed wise to choose their fellow- 
travellers in advance instead of leaving this 
choice to them. To protect themselves After F. D. McCarthy 
from this desire of the soul, some tribes 

kill prisoners of war or strangers whom they treacherously over- 
whelm. This is the origin of the ill-famed custom of the 
Koppensnellen in the East Indian Archipelago. Koppensnellen 
victims are unsuspecting honey-seekers or visitors to the water- 
place, killed by insidious attack from ambush. All such actions 
are inspired by the desire to satisfy the soul before it feels 
any inclination to act. Since the closest relatives are most likely 
to be the victims of the soul's thirst for revenge, and since 
they may infect others with the contagious danger, they have to 
live in seclusion for a certain period, after which they often have 
to undergo a special ceremony of purification to make sure that 
they are again completely free of the ' poison of death/ 



Central Australia 



Another preventive measure is not to mention the name of 
the dead since, as previously observed, the pronunciation of their 
names would cause their dreaded presence. 


After a photograph, American Museum of Natural History, 
New York 

The belief in the extremely strong power of the souls of the dead 
developed from the fear of the dead, and has caused the living to 



Arunta, Central Australia 

After F. D. McCarthy 

Western Congo 

Museum of Ethnology, 


33 1 

desire to benefit from this power, just as from other powers of nature. 
This could be achieved by keeping the souls of the departed as 
closely by as possible, yet at a prescribed spot. The images of 
ancestors serve this purpose. 

In Central Australia certain flat-shaped pieces of wood or flat 
stones that represent the soul of a man or woman are prepared 
for him immediately after his birth. Each native has his own 
soul- wood or soul-stone, known by the name of tjurunga. Although 
the spirit of the dead itself returns to another 
place, the tjurunga maintains some of his 
individual soul substance. For this reason 
the survivors collect these objects from their 
ancestors up to the recently deceased and 
regard them as their most sacred possessions. 
Whole collections of such ancestral soul- 
stones are hidden away within the tribal 
regions to serve during holy ceremonies when 
all their powers are combined to * help ' 
during the initiation ceremonies or to obtain 
an increase of the food supplies. Objects 
of similar significance are the nurtanjas and 
waningas of Northern or Central Mistralia, 
respectively. They are structures of spears ANCESTRAL SKULL IN 
tied together with human hair and covered WOODEN 'KORWAR' 
with red-and- white feather down, on whose 
tops some tjurungas are suspended for cere- 
monial purposes. 

From these soul-woods and soul-stones the ancestral images 
of the agriculturists developed, a variety of which is the well-known 
fetish figures. These images of the ancestors are, however, not 
made during the lifetime or at the birth of an individual, but only 
after his death. They are not identical with the soul of a living 
person, but contain his other, his ' death soul.' During the course 
of development they then assume, besides their religious and 
magic significance, the meaning of mere tokens of remembrance. 
Besides the man-made ancestral images, the skulls and the bones of 
the dead person are worshipped as objects containing ' soul power/ 
and occasionally both types of fetishism appear in combination. 

Since the skull is often considered the seat of the soul it is only 
logical to procure and to preserve it, especially if it belonged to 
an outstanding individual like a priest or a chieftain. Skull 
worship is not restricted to the ancestral skulls alone, but is extended 
even to any obtainable skull, whether from friend or enemy. 

Dutch New Guinea 
After O. Nuoffer 



From the worship of the dead and the cult of the skulls the 
mask cult, with its dances and performances, has developed. The 
carved mask now symbolizes the soul, the spirit, or the magic 
demon. But not man alone possesses such powerful soul sub- 
stances. In the world-view of the so-called animism, plants and 


Urua, Southern Congo 


Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

animals, celestial bodies, hills, and rivers are all endowed by 
primitive man with souls and spirits equal to his own. Many an 
African native who sets out to fell a tree pours some palm-oil 
on the soil after the first blow so that the enraged tree-soul is led 
away from the ' attacker/ who thereby escapes its revenge. The 
general custom of the North American Indians of begging the 
killed prey animal for its pardon originates in the same belief. 
The Eskimos explain their attitude towards the spirit of the 


killed animal in elaborate detail. They believe that seals and 
whales who live in the salt water suffer from continuous thirst 
and that they only allow themselves to be killed because the 
hunter offers them a drink of fresh water in return. If he ever 
neglects the ritual of pouring a dipperful of water in their mouths 
after they have been killed all the other seals will know this 
immediately, and will not give this unreliable hunter the oppor- 
tunity to kill them. Polar bears who are not thirsty because 
they can lick the snow are, however, eager to obtain man's tools, 
like crooked knives or bow drills, if they are males. Female bears 
desire women's knives, skin-scrapers, and bone needles. Stefansson 
says : 

Consequently, when a polar bear has been killed his soul accom- 
panies the skin into the man's house and stays with the skin for 
several days. The skin during this time is hung up at the rear end 
of the house, and with the skin are hung up the tools which the 
bear desires, according to the sex of the animal killed. At the end 
of the fourth or fifth day the soul of the bear is by a magic formula 
driven out of the house ; and when it goes away it takes away with 
it the souls of the tools which have been suspended with it, and 
uses them thereafter. 

Eskimo hunters and their wives have to be very careful to do 
justice to the souls of the killed animals in this way. If they are 
neglectful their reputation not only among the animals (who 
will henceforth shun their attempts at killing), but also among 
the humans, will severely suffer. " Certain women are known in 
their communities for this very undesirable quality, and if a 
woman becomes a widow her reputation for carelessness in treating 
the souls of animals may prevent her from getting a second 

As this belief in the ' souls of the tools ' shows, even inanimate 
objects are, in the animistic world- view, equipped with souls, 
and certain artisans who manufacture them, especially smiths and 
wood carvers, are mysterious and, occasionally, dangerous persons 
who may influence the souls of whatever objects they shape. 

Even good and bad character qualities are traced back to 
different spirits dwelling in a human mind, and the sickness 
demons, developed from the spirits of the dead, run loose every- 
where. They take the forms of elves and goblins, and they are 
fought or flattered by the same means as are considered effective 
in dealing with the spirits of the dead. 

From all these examples we see that the world of primitive 


man abounds with invisible spirits and beings which may be 
the friends or enemies of the living. They all require special 
attention so that they may be kindly inclined, and their future 
will may be read and interpreted by the enlightened. The flight 
of the birds, the currents of the water, the entrails of animals, 
the way in which a thrown stick falls or an oracle animal moves, 
can betray the will of the silent and yet so powerful spirits, so 
that man can direct his actions accordingly. From the belief in 
such premonitory signs the games with dice and car ds* have de- 
veloped ; and the * reading of the future ' with the help of cards 
or tea-leaves goes back to these very ancient conceptions. 

The belief in the powers of the souls and the earliest forms of 
mythology the analogous shaping of the great powers of nature 
including heaven and earth after the patterns of the experiences 
of primitive man has finally found its highest expression in 
the belief that supernatural beings exist who are superior to man. 
The multitude of gods who are throned above the mortals, many 
of them distinguished by specific functions and qualities, still 
show in almost every instance the traces of their development 
from conceptions of earlier cultures. 

Many of the outstanding gods of the ancient high cultures 
maintained in their appearance certain animal attributes. The 
Egyptian hierarchy of gods, especially, furnishes striking examples. 
The sun-god Horus, with the sparrow-hawk's head, was the 
master of the flame-spitting snake, the stroke of lightning, with 
whose help he destroyed his enemies. Toth, the moon-god, had 
the head of an ibis ; Anubis, the god of the dead, was snake- 
headed. Often the animal character of the deity is merely main- 
tained in his riding mount, while he himself attains the human 
form. The Indian god Siva, once an old sun-god conceived as 
a steer, rides now, as a human-shaped figure, a reddish-brown 
bull. It is Siva who, as the sun-god, frees the cattle (light) from 
the stable of the night. 

The dance as the oldest form of religious worship has likewise 
been adopted by many high cultures as a characteristic of the 
gods. All Mexican gods dance ; they are pictured with bells 
on their feet, and musicians are their constant companions. 

The relationship of prayer especially of the fixed, formulatory 
variety to the ancient magic formula is evident. In Tibetan 
Lamaism, the belief in the effectiveness of magic repetition 
has led to the use of regular prayer- mills which mechanize the 
holy formula of the Om mani padme hum for the benefit of the 
pious. The interesting characteristic of such prayer formulas is 



the fact that the words used stand in no direct relationship to the 
wishes of the praying individual, who obviously believes that the 
formula arouses the attention of the god who, once called in, 
automatically takes care of the needs of his follower. The Tibetan 
prayer-mills contain slips of paper on which the holy words have 
been written. By a simple 
turn of the attached crank, 
the prayer counts as 'spoken' 
and can in this way be effort- 
lessly repeated a thousand 
and more times . This gadget 
stands on the same level as 
the primitive dance rattle, 
and is only a combination of 
it with the ancient ' magic 
sing-song,' Such prayer - 
mills have assumed gigantic 
dimensions. Specimens in 
Japan can be moved only by 
a group of ' prayers J ; and 
some huge prayer-mills are 
driven by water or wind 

Informal prayers expressed 
in the manner of a simple 
demand are equally old. 
They have been and often 
still are accompanied by gifts 
to the spirits or gods to 
win their friendly inclination. 
The most ancient concep- 
tion of the deity is that of 
an incalculable being who, however, can be appeased or influenced 
by gifts, sacrifices, or vows. Neglect in making such offerings 
causes the wrath of the gods. It is up to man to create a friendly 
relationship between himself and those beyond his visible world. 
Nobler conceptions in our sense enter the realm of religion with 
the introduction of ethical yard-sticks and ethical evaluations. 

In the different paradises of mankind the tree of knowledge is 
the same, only its fruits are of different kinds. The conceptions 
of ' good ' and ' bad ' are no absolute values : they vary within 
the different cultures. The * knowledge,' however, is stable in so 
far as it determines what is good or bad according to the customs 


Om Mani Padme Hum 

In different Scripts 

After Forstmann 


of the peoples concerned. And God or the gods supervise the 
observance of the code of morals. The nature of these morals 
changes from tribe to tribe, from people to people, and is subject 
to historic development. 

Higher cultures have extended the influences of the Deity 
beyond death, when He distributes, as a matter of justice, reward 
or punishment in accordance with an individual's ethical behaviour 
on earth. Only one additional element surpasses even this con- 
ception of God : the idea of the forgiving love ascribed to God by 
the Christian religion. 

Primitive man created his gods in his own image. Often they 
are endowed with human desires and passions, besides having 
powers which man does not possess. The belief in these powers 
is founded on faith, just as in the great world religions. This 
faith led to the belief that the gods created man. 

The teachings of the missionaries have partly substituted for 
or replaced the old powers of magic and the old gods, but unless 
the whole primitive culture of the tribes in question had been 
utterly destroyed only such teachings and conceptions of Christianity 
could be absorbed as fitted into the general world-view of the 
tribe. In spite of continuous missionary work among primitives, 
the outcome of the white i/ian's endeavours was only too often 
merely a mixed primitive- Christian religion of which the festivals 
taking place during the Semana Santa, the Holy Week of the Latin 
American Indian tribes, are a good example, for here the blending 
of the new Christian beliefs with the old magic myths becomes 
evident in unmistakable frankness. 

Only such beliefs and gods and faiths as somehow already 
were parts of their own world were and could be accepted by the 
minds of primitive worshippers. Again, it was man who created 
his gods. 


Each Thing has its Story 

EVEN IN THE loneliest wilderness primitive man is surrounded 
by many heterogeneous spirits whose good or evil forces 
stand in direct relation to his activities, hopes, and destinies. 
His neighbours the animals, his friends the plants, his ancestors 
the stars, his gods who dwell in the sun, in the moon, in the 
volcanoes, and in the rivers, are around him at all times, and his 
continuous intercourse with the 
spiritual forces emanating from 
them makes his life an exciting 
experience, marked by never- 
ending adventures. 

Unable to write down this 
wealth of adventure in holy or 
worldly books for the genera- 
tions to come, he relieves his 
soul by the medium of the 
spoken word, which assumes 
in his environment an import- 
ance far greater than spoken 
utterances in the civilized 
world. The nightly gatherings 
in the huts, the camp-fires, and 
the community houses become 
the centres of spiritual exchange 
of an intensity that surpasses the realm of mere entertainment, 
because here the ancient traditions are related to future generations 
in narratives which they, in turn, will remember and pass on for 
the sake of their children and grandchildren. 

Not without reason, the ancient tales are often begun or termi- 
nated with the phrase, " That is how it came upon us," or, " The 
old ones told it this way." The myths of primitive peoples are 
their Bible and their history book, their codes of etiquette and 
their thesauri, their treasure chests filled with ancient wisdom, 
shrewd psychology, and, last but not least, laughter and wit. 
They all have one thing in common : they are ' non-fictional/ and, 
fantastic as some of them may sound to our ears, they are the 
factual truth to those who tell them and to all who listen to them. 

The mythology shaped and preserved by the minds of the 



Haida Indian Drawing 


peoples without written history is an ocean filled with pearls 
and those we have lifted from its depths are a mere fraction of 
its wealth. 

The principal characteristic of the myths of primitive peoples 
is that they make no marked distinction between the human 
being and his natural surroundings that man and plants and 
animals, the phenomena of nature, the celestial bodies, the 
legendary heroes, and the gods, all act on an equal basis and under 
circumstances fashioned after the patterns of life of the tribes 
concerned. Ignorant of the physical and psychological structure 
of the things and beings outside himself, primitive man takes 
his own inner self as the yard-stick of their nature and attitude, 
and transposes naively his own feelings and habits to the ' feelings ' 
and * habits ' even of things which, according to our conceptions, 
are inanimate. Material objects, the powers of nature, and plants 
and animals all think and act like man, and this is one reason 
why the tales and myths of the peoples without written history 
are so colourful, so fascinating, and so picturesque. 

The ' elders ' of the animal tribes sit together in council meetings, 
smoking the ceremonial pipe and discussing their problems 
solemnly for the sake of the animal kingdom ; the dog owns a 
plantation just as his agricultural human brethren do ; the porcu- 
pine seeks his right in a palaver ; a cherished root is dug only after 
a short address to its spirit ; the hunted bear is formally begged 
for his pardon. The Brazilian Indian hits the * vicious ' stone 
over which he has stumbled and the arrow that wounded him. 
The tree from which a man fell to break his neck is ceremoniously 
cut down ; another member of the tiger clan has to die for the 
' murder ' committed by a fellow-tiger. 

Such customs live on even in our time when a dog is held 
responsible by American courts of law for injuries inflicted on 
a person ; and the Greek court of the Prytaneum sentenced a 
piece of wood or a stone ' guilty ' of a man's death to be thrown 
solemnly over the border-line of the community land. Our own 
children scold a chair or table against which they fall, and their 
conversations with dolls, balls, and other toys go back to the 
same root. The Bushmen of South Africa believe that ostriches 
go hunting with bow and arrow ; and the Australians whisper 
important and confidential news to each other for fear some 
animal might be eavesdropping and indiscreetly spread the secret 
all around. 

The great phenomena of nature, day and night, sun and moon, 
thunder, rain, storm, and the like, are, to primitive man, the 


utterances of spiritual beings, and they are persons like man. 
The sun goes hunting ; the moon catches herself in a trap ; the 
clouds are smoke from the pipes of the gods. This attitude is 
still reflected in the expressions of our own language. To us, 
the sun ' rises/ * shines/ ' sets ' ; the wind * blows ' or * whistles ' ; 
the storm * howls ' ; the snow ' falls ' ; the water * stands ' or 
* flows ' all these attributes are used in a way as though they 
described the activities of living beings. The terms of our modern 
physical science make use of such analogies. We reckon in * horse- 
power ' units ; speed * increases ' ; and even the atom * divides 
itself ' until it is * smashed ' by the superior powers of nature (in 
the universe) and of man (in uranium). 

The living spirits * hidden ' in the ' bodies ' of the forces of 
nature assume, in the primitive world, all sorts of shapes. On 
the American North-west coast thunder is created by the thunder- 
bird, whose flapping wings make the rumbling sound and cause 
the stormy winds. Four brothers of the Tlingit tribe, enraged over 
the fact that their sister disgraced them by having intercourse with 
a snail, turned into the Thunders. " When they move their 
wings you hear the thunder, and when they wink you see the 

The Alsea, a vanishing tribe of the Pacific Coast, take their 
precautions when the Thunder is around and try to appease 
him with the words : " Dodge thyself, my friend ! " When he 
threatens to rend the house they dance and hit the house with 
sticks in his stead, and turn over their water-buckets to please 
him. When the storm reaches its climax an old man stands up 
and says suggestively to his people, " The world is not doing 
anything wrong ; nature acts thus just without any bad cause." 

In the African Pangwe country lightning is ' a black ball ' which 
leaves its ' excrements * on the trees it hits in the form of resin, 
which is worshipped as holy. 

Among the Bamum and Tikar of the Cameroons there are 
three kinds of lightning : ' the axe/ which splits the trees ; * the 
white monkey," which destroys the plantations like a monkey ; 
and * the cock/ which kills thieves. In Australia the complex 
earthquake - thunderstorm - rain often goes back to one single 
source of origin a snake of human appearance but with dwarfed 
legs and arms, which dwells in a cave and shows itself to the 
mortals in the form of a snake, eel, or leguan. Earthquakes may 
be caused there by the killing of a sacred snake. After a woman 
married To Uvalun, the volcano snake, she gave birth to a son 
who moved into a mountain where he sits and smokes, spitting 


fire and stones over the region. The earthquake snake is invisible 
to men, a gigantic being with a cock's comb on its head. 

The sun may be a god, a hero, a mere man, or a burning stake. 
Its rays are arrows thrown to earth by the sun-god, or fishing-lines 
on whose hooks the earth is lifted from the oceans. Or the sun 
may own two houses, one on earth, the other in the skies, between 
which it makes its daily journey, as in the Zuni country. 

The moon may be a man, a hero, a god, or a woman. The 
lunar mountains especially have been explained in many* mythical 
ways. The * man in the moon ' may be a man, a girl, a toad 
(at the Rio Ataguaya), or a frog, as in some North American 
legends. The eclipses of the sun and the moon are caused by 
animals eating them. (" Grizzly bear eats," say the Klamath 
during an eclipse.) A frog, enraged by the fact that the sun eats 
his children, gives chase to it and eats it during an eclipse, say the 
Maidu of California. In the Alsea country " the crow usually 
kills the moon, and also the eagle, and likewise the chicken hawk 
and the owl. All the birds habitually assemble whenever they 
kill the moon " ; but " even if the moon should disappear, never- 
theless he will again fix his own appearance just as it was before." 
When the sun is being * killed ' during an eclipse a burglar is 
after him on account of his large treasure of dentalia money shells, 
and all buckets of the Alsea must be upset, " because it is not 
desired that the water should become bloody whenever the sun 
is killed." The Zuni moon is " reborn each month, and in fourteen 
days reaches maturity ; after that her life wanes." 

The sun may also be a white horse which, in higher cultures, 
serves as a riding animal of the sun-god a belief which is the 
origin of the sacrifice of horses in India. An ancient ritual still 
customary in Hanover, Germany, goes back to the same con- 
ception. At Christmas time a strong young villager rides on a 
white horse through the streets, collecting gifts from the house- 
holders. He is the returning sun-god, who receives the presents 
that replace the ancient sacrifices. The St Stephen's ride made 
on December 26 on horses over many European fields to ask 
the returning sun for the fertility of the coming harvest is of the 
same origin, and Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, who in many 
countries follows or precedes the Christ Child in the Christmas 
parade, is nobody else but the old sun-god. 

In the beginning of time heaven and earth were not separated 
from each other, and most stories of primitive peoples dealing 
with the creation of the earth give detailed descriptions of the 
lifting of the heaven from the earth. Old Father Nainuema 


created the Uitoto world in a state of meditation ; smoking and 
dreaming, he took the empty ground, tramped it with his feet, 
and then separated the heaven from the earth. The Zufii describe 
this earliest state of the world in the customary introduction of 
their olden tales : " Long ago, when the earth was soft . . ." 

In ancient Egypt, Shu, the sun-god, separated the heaven from 
the earth ; and some of the old pictorial records of this event show 
Geb, the earth, as a man over whom Nut, the heaven goddess, 
stands, both supported by Shu, their mutual father. On the body 
of Nut the gods travel in their boats. 

The idea that the sun travels in a boat over the ocean of heaven 
is familiar to many peoples on earth. But since heaven and 
earth seem to grow together at the horizon it is often believed 
that their daily joining and separating take place in the West, 
and that the sun must pass the small crevice between them every 
evening. This being a dangerous undertaking, the sun is often 
harmed or wounded while sneaking through ; and his tail or leg 
is squeezed off. The Greek myth of the Symplegades, two rocks 
that open and close, goes back to this belief. The Australian 
sun-god has only one good leg ; the other one, a stump, has been 
mutilated during the travel. The Mexican sun-god is equally 
crippled, and some of the old codices show him with blood 
streaming from his left stump. But here the rocks are replaced 
by a fish, a conception that leads to a combination of the saga 
of the Symplegades with that of a fish who eats the sun at night 
to spit it out again in the morning a story known to us as the 
Jonah myth. It is the ancient myth of the setting sun which is 
1 eaten ' by the darkness of the night and ' spat out ' again in 
the morning when the ball of light emerges in new glory. 

The North-west American Haida, whose story of the whale 
that swallowed the raven (the latter is their mythical personifi- 
cation of the sun) gives their version of the sunset and sunrise, 
like to paint the story on their sacred objects. 

The African Zulu have the sun swallowed by a monster living 
in their river, and it * dies ' when the sky takes on a flaming red 
colour the evening glow. Where there is no ocean or huge river, 
the sun is eaten by an elephant or a wolf. The story of Little 
Red Riding Hood is nothing else but another version of the Jonah 
myth, the red cap on her head being the setting ball of the sun, 
the wolf being the night. Where a gigantic snake takes the part 
of the night that swallows the light of the day, it develops gradually 
into the mystical dragon monster which, in China, fetches the 
sun from the sea. The Emperor of China, son of the sun, sat 


on a golden dragon throne, and his banners showed the dragon 
with the red-glowing ball of the sun. 

In the myths of many peoples life on earth began on the day 
when the sun emerged for the first time from the nocturnal belly 
of the fish, the land monster, or the box in which it swam in the 
ocean and together with the sun appeared all living creatures who 
had fled into the box or boat to escape a great flood ; in this we 
recognize the Ark of Noah, whose ancestor was the ancient sun-god. 

The story of the great flood belongs to the oldest myths of man- 
kind. It appears in the stories of India, Persia, Greece, and the 
Nordics ; the Mexicans knew it, and it is told by the arctic and 
subarctic hunters, by the peoples of North and South America, 
Melanesia, and elsewhere. However, the old assumption that its 
distribution is world-wide has been refuted by modern science. It 
does not appear in China and Japan ; it cannot be found in the 
Buddhist scripts or among the Egyptians and the Arabs. The 
Chaldean record of the great flood and that of Genesis , however, 
dates back to 2000 B.C. 

The different variations of the story of the great flood belong to 
the most fascinating manifestations of human imagination. Volume 
after volume has been filled with it by scientists who never ceased 
to be attracted by this tale,' which is so often chosen by primitive 
man as the logical explanation of the origin of life or the survival 
of living creatures after one or more previous * ends of the world/ 
To pick just one example from hundreds, the version told by the 
eastern Athapasks follows in abbreviated form. 


In the beginning, people lived on earth just as to-day. But 
some winter, something extraordinary happened : snow fell in such 
huge quantities that the whole world was buried under it and that 
only the tops of the highest pines stuck out from under the blanket 
of snow. All animals who then lived among the humans hurried 
towards the sky to look for warmth. The squirrel who was fastest 
climbed the top of the highest pine-tree, drilled a hole in the sky, 
and entered through it the heavenly regions. This hole is the sun. 
All other animals hurried to squeeze themselves through the same 
hole, whereby the squirrel came so closely to the source of warmth 
that its pelt was singed ; that is why it is still red even to-day. 

The bear who was the overlord of the upper regions did not like 
the idea that the light from Heaven now streamed down to earth, 

Adapted from Petitot. 


and he covered the sun-hole with skins, so that it was dark again 
in the cold world. The bear and his sons collected all the warmth 
of Heaven in a huge leather bag and hung it up in a high tree in 
the upper regions where in other bags the other weathers were 
stored : there was one bag with rain and one with snow, one with 
nice weather and one with storm, one full of cold, and now the one 
containing the warmth. The bear and his sons lay down under that 
tree to guard the bag that contained the warmth, and he said to the 

There was one bag with rain and one with snow, one with nice 

weather and one with storm, one full of cold, and now the one 

containing the warmth. 

other animals, " Don't you dare to steal it ! " And who among them 
was strong enough to fight the powerful bear ? They almost 
despaired. The reindeer who knows how to run fast offered to 
try his best. He swam toward the bear (the tree he guarded grew 
on an island of Heaven), and grabbed the bag containing the warmth 
before the bear could hinder him. The bear fetched his boat, but 
when he began to paddle, his paddle broke, because it had been 
secretly hollowed out by the mouse as his contribution to the common 
good. This gave the animals a chance to get away with the bag. 
It was very heavy, and they carried it alternately, suspended from a 
beam. On the long road between Heaven and Earth they had to 
rest every night. One evening when they got ready to camp the 
mouse, whose shoes were walked to shreds, cut a tiny piece of 
leather from the bag to mend them and this unfortunate act 


caused the great accident. The warmth streamed from the hole 
with such terrific power that the gigantic blanket of snow which 
covered the earth was melted down in a matter of seconds and 
turned into a horrible flood that rose and rose until it covered even 
the highest mountains. 

An old Indian with white hair had foreseen this event and had 
warned his fellow-tribesmen of the moment when the snow would 
melt. " Let us build a large canoe to save us," he had said, but 
they had laughed at him. " If there should be a flood," they said, 
" we can always climb on the mountains which it cannot reach." 
But they were wrong. The water caught up with them, and they 
drowned, up to the last man. All animals also perished in the 
Great Flood which marked the end of the world. 

Only one Indian was saved, Etsie, the grandfather, who had 
built the boat nevertheless, and had taken with him a couple of birds 
and animals of each kind. When they had travelled in Etsie's boat 
for a long, long time, food became scarce ; they hated the sight 
of the water, and longed for the soil. But there was no trace of 
it. The flood would not disappear. All water- animals tried to 
reach the ground by diving, but they did not succeed. The eagle 
flew away to look for some firm soil, but he found nothing. The 
pigeon tried his luck and stayed away for two days, after which he 
returned, completely exhausted. But he carried a small piece of 
pine in his beak : he had seen some tree-tops emerging from the 
water. This encouraged all other animals, and they began to dive 
again in their search for the ground. The bisam rat almost drowned 
in his attempt. The otter stayed under water so long that he almost 
died. " Nothing ! " he said before he fainted. Finally the little 
trumpet-duck tried his luck. When he emerged from the water, 
he had some soil between his toes. He tried again, and by some 
miracle he succeeded in lifting the earth. It is he who brought the 
earth back to all who live to-day. He is the smartest of all creatures. 

But not only is the origin of all beings and all things visible or 
invisible explained in the stories of the aborigines ; all important 
events in their lives become the core of their myths. The habits, 
shapes, and colours of animals are ' factually ' explained. The 
opossum has a large mouth because he once laughed excessively at 
the deer whom he had fooled ; the howling monkey never descends 
from the trees because he is afraid of the tapir whose precious 
flute he once stole ; the animals live now in the bush and 
no longer in houses as before, because a son of men out-tricked 
them. Certain animals are recognized as masters of clever ruse ; 
mostly small in stature, they outwit their larger brethren by their 
quick thinking. In our tales this role is played by the fox ; in 
Africa and South America the clever one is often the turtle. Some 


animals were formerly humans, yet deeds of greed or selfishness 
* made their hands crooked ' but more often the animals are the 
ancestors of man. 

Some animals are regarded as * bad/ like the wolverine of the 
North, that * Indian devil ' who steals the bait from the traps and 
springs them, and who even eats the precious bundles of fur stored 
by the Indians in their caches. To the African Pangwe the 
ichneumon, which eats the chickens' eggs, is mom, a criminal. 

In contrast to this, other animals are worshipped for the sake of 
their ' noble ' qualities. The alligator-killing varan is holy in many 
parts of Africa ; the Pangwe treat him as their equal, and use his 
likeness as their favourite ornament. In arctic regions especially 
the bear is looked upon as equal, if not superior, to man. A pipe 
of peace is stuck in his mouth by the hunter who was * forced ' to 
kill him, and the sight of his dead body is hidden from the eyes of 
women and children to spare his feelings. The Naskapi believe 
that all animals live in tribes, like people, but not so the bear, 
because each bear is * a chieftain by himself.' 

Many native stories end in a moral. Told for educational pur- 
poses, they warn one not to neglect the gods, not to touch one's 
neighbour's property, not to laugh at the aged, and so forth ; or 
they ridicule those who desire what they are not fit to have, like the 
rabbit who tried to imitate his friend the beaver, and was almost 
drowned in his attempt to fish beaver-fashion in the icy water. 

All the wit and gaiety of the primitives scintillate in their stories. 
Some are hilarious in their grotesque descriptions and analogies ; 
some are saintly, others audacious. Some, unknowingly, preach 
deep philosophy. In Africa animal fables are told before the courts 
of justice to stress a legal point or to whitewash a defendant. 
Elsewhere roundabout suggestions are made to the gods in the form 
of solemnly told stories. All over the primitive world the enter- 
tainment and education provided by the ancient tales substitute 
effectively for Church and school, cinema and magazine. What- 
ever their contents, they are good stories and eagerly listened to. 
Songs and poetry occasionally interrupt the flow of the narrative ; 
artistic pauses increase the element of suspense, and all the tricks 
of accomplished rhetoric are applied to enchant the minds of the 

The right to tell the ancient stories is often owned by one group 
or individual alone, and the teller of tales is usually a revered old 
man ; his title is ' master of the tale.' 

The Dayak of Borneo distinguish between three different lan- 
guages : those of men, of the souls, and of the gods. Indonesian 


aesthetics distinguish between an ordinary and a high style of 
narrating a story. Rentas is the adjective bestowed upon a masterly 
Dayak story-teller * whose words one hears with delight.' His job 
is to entertain the people at night when they are making braid in 
the community house. Among the favourite subjects of his tales 
are gods and ghosts, men, plants, and animals, the jewelled flowers 
of the ' Better World/ the vampires with their bones of knives, the 
deeds of Abir the hero, the ruses of the dwarf, and the well-known 
trial in which it was decided that the delicious smell of Toasted fish 
must be paid for with the lovely sound of drums. A Dayak story 
apt to please must have three qualities truth, beauty, and logical 
sequence and the expert listeners are not easily fooled. 

The African tellers of tales like to speak * as though they talked 
to the fire.' The Eskimo and the old men in the tents of Labrador 
seem to translate the magic light of the aurora borealis into words 
when they relate with sparse gestures and in the tone of reverence 
the secrets of the wilderness. A bird is no longer a bird, but 
becomes the messenger of some mystical shaman ; the night 
breathes with life stars and moon, bear and beaver, sledge and ice, 
begin to speak with human voices ; and the presence of the forces 
of the universe is felt in intimate tangibility by all who listen to his 
slow and stirring voice. 

But better than any mere description are the tales themselves. 
A few follow. In accordance with the idea of this book, they have 
been chosen for the sake of one common characteristic : they all 
explain the origin of things. 

An Australian Myth l 

In the olden times there was no sun ; only the moon and the 
stars shone together in the skies. There were no people on earth, 
only birds and some animals much larger than we know them to-day. 

One day Dinevan, the emu, and Bralgah, the crane, took a walk 
together. But they had a misunderstanding, and soon began to 
fight one another. Bralgah lost his temper, rushed to the nest of 
Dinevan, seized one of his eggs, and threw it with all his strength 
towards the sky, where it hit a pile of firewood and smashed to 
pieces. The yellow yolk ran all over the wood-pile and set it 
aflame, so that the whole world was suddenly lit up by the burning 
wood. Until then there had been only a very dim light over the 
earth, and now those beneath were blinded by the strong glow of 
the fire. 

Adapted from K. Langloh Parker. 


The good spirit who lives in the skies liked the illumination, and 
thought how nice it would be to have a fire like this every day. So 
he established the custom. Every night his servant spirits collect 
the firewood, and when the pile is ready he sends the morning star 
out to announce that the fire will be lit up soon. 

However, he noticed that the visible announcement by the morning 
star alone could not awake the sleepers on earth, and he looked for 
a sound effect to accompany the signal. Yet he could not find the right 
individual to make the right sound. 

One evening he heard the laughter of gurgurgaga y the cock. 
" This is my man ! " he said to himself, and engaged the bird to 
laugh every morning before the lighting of the pile would begin. 
If he should neglect his duty the pile would not be set on fire. 

Gurgurgaga has since done his job so well that he never neglects 
to laugh every morning at the proper time. He ends his performance 
by calling his name three times : " Gurgurgaga ! Gurgurgaga ! 
Gurgurgaga! " 

In the morning, when the spirits light the pile, there is not much 
heat at first. But towards noon, when the whole pile is aglow, it gets 
pretty hot on earth. After that, the warmth gradually decreases 
until in the evening there is just a faint red glow left, which quickly 
turns into grey ashes. Only a few burning logs are kept over night, 
carefully wrapped in clouds, so that the fire can be rekindled easily 
when the morning comes. If some one should ever ridicule gurgur- 
gaga y who is very sensitive, he would stop laughing in the morning, 
and then the earth would be shrouded in darkness again. 


A Tale from New Guinea x 

In our village of Votrejeng a brother and a sister were once alone 
at home. When they got hungry they looked for some sago to 
cook a meal. When they took the cover from the big earthenware 
pot where their mother kept the sago they found in it one big piece 
which was perfectly round and had such a beautiful brilliant shine 
that they forgot their hunger and began to play ball with it outside 
their hut. 

The sun-god Wunekau who peeked down from the sky watched 
them play, and came down a little bit to have a better look at that 
shining piece of sago. Finally he covered his face with a huge leaf 
in order not to singe the children, and came down within talking 
distance. " Throw your ball a little higher/* he said to the 
children, " so that I can have a look at it too." When they did so 
he caught the ball of sago and took it with him into the skies, 

1 Adapted from P. H. Meyer. 


disregarding the crying children. After all, until then he had had a 
very hard life, being on duty day and night. He established the sago 
ball as Moon, the night watchman, and as soon as the moon begins 
his rounds the sun can rest and go to sleep. 

As told by Tomo Kak'wa of the Montagnais-Naskapi Tribe l 

In olden times there was no night. The sun and the moon shone 
side by side in the heavens, so that it was always day. 

He looked at the moon, close at hand, and was no longer 

afraid of her. In fact, he liked her so much that he eagerly 

walked into her. Then he himself cut the snare. . . . 

An Indian called Tsegabec longed for the darkness, and he re- 
solved to create the night. He was a wonderful trapper, and could 
snare any animal he wanted to. His sister had once said to him : 

" If you ever want to catch something unusual, ask me for some 
of my long hair and make a snare of it. With such a snare you will 
be able to catch things that the other Indians cannot trap." 

1 Recorded by Julius E. Lips. 


On that day Tsegabec went to his sister and asked her for one 
of her hairs. 

" You must be up to something/* said she. 

" Oh, no/* said he, and began to sing. 

She gave him a hair, and he made a snare out of it. He carefully 
set the snare at the end of the path which the moon was accustomed 
to travel, and, believe it or not, he actually caught the moon in it. 

Night fell, and for a long time darkness was on the earth. 
Tsegabec began to weep, and was afraid of what he had done. 

At home in his tent he had a huge bag of animals which he had 
once caught in his snares : rats, moles, mice, and other little 

When the moon had been caught he asked his sister to bring him 
the bag with the animals. 

" What do you want it for ? " she asked. 

He answered : " Never mind ! Just bring it to me ! " 

He let the animals out, and begged them to gnaw the moon out 
of the snare. They tried one after another, but to no avail. Finally 
the mouse succeeded in freeing the moon. The moon again jumped 
up to the heavens and ran after the sun, but she could not catch up 
with him. Since that time, the sun and the moon have been as we 
see them to-day, and thus day and night were created. 

But Tsegabec could not forget his adventure with the moon. He 
could not resist the temptation to catch 'her once again. 

One day he left his tent, prepared to go hunting. 

" Where are you going ? " asked his sister. 

" Oh, I am just going out to trap rabbits/* answered Tsegabec. 
But secretly he went to the edge of the world where the moon rises, 
and again set his snare to catch her. 

When the moon rose she again caught herself in the snare. 
Seeing this, Tsegabec rejoiced. He looked at the moon, close at 
hand, and was no longer afraid of her. In fact, he liked her so much 
that he eagerly walked into her. Then he himself cut the snare, and 
rose up to the heavens in the moon. 

From there he still looks down upon the earth every night when 
it is dark. We call him the Man in the Moon. 

The Haida, another North American Indian tribe, believe that 
Roong, the moon, once saw on earth a man whom he liked. Sending 
down his rays, he pulled the man up to him to have company. 
The kidnapped Indian tried to hold on to his water-bucket because 
he wanted to stay on earth with his family, but to no avail. Since 
then, he is up there in the moon. Whenever he turns over the pail 
which he still holds in his hand it rains on earth. 

In Micronesia, as P. Hambruch and A. Brandeis tell us, the 
' human figure ' in the moon is not a man at all but a pretty girl 
from Nauru Island, who once lived with her grandmother under a 


very tall tree. Ejiwanoko that was the girl's name was so beauti- 
ful that her grandmother thought her too good to marry a mortal 
man and looked for a son-in-law among the gods. One day she 
advised the girl to adorn herself with flowers and sweet-smelling oils, 
and gave her some magic medicine, after which she told the girl to 
climb upwards in the tree, higher and higher, until she reached 
the sky. Nobody had ever been able to accomplish this before. 

Ejiwanoko did what she was told. When she arrived among the 
clouds she found there a blind old woman who, with hot stones, 
cooked palm wine to molasses in thirty coconut calabashes. Over- 
whelmed by thirst, the girl drank from some of the vessels. The 
woman, though blind, noticed this, and threatened to have her 
killed by her two sons when they got home in the evening. The 
girl tried in vain to obtain her forgiveness, and finally in her anxiety 
offered to cure the old woman's eyes. To her own amazement, 
she succeeded. She touched the blind eyes, and immediately some 
lizards, bugs, and other nasty creatures sprang out of the old 
woman's eyes, and she could see again. 

Happily, the old woman embraced her, and hid her under a huge 
Tridacna shell, because her returning sons would kill any stranger. 
But when the first son, Iguan, came home he noticed that his 
mother shut her eyes at His approach. He was the sun, and no 
seeing person could look at him without being blinded. While he 
asked her who restored her sight the second son came home. He 
was Merriman, the moon. When their mother told them what 
had happened, each of them wanted to see the girl. She came out 
from under the Tridacna shell, and was so beautiful that both 
wanted to marry her. They left it to her to choose between them, 
and promised that they would not be jealous. The old woman 
asked her which of the two should be her husband. Ejiwanoko said : 

" I cannot marry Iguan. He is too hot ; I cannot look at him. 
But Merriman looks so quiet and gentle. I will go with him." 

Upon these words, Merriman took her in his arms and sailed 
with her up into the skies, where we can see them travel together 
when the night is clear. 


As told by the Creek Indians x 

The animals held a meeting, and Nokosi, the Bear, presided. 
The question was, how to divide day and night. 

Some desired the day to last all the time ; others wished to have 

1 After John R. Swanton. 



all night. After much talk Chew-thlock-chew, the ground squirrel, 
said : 

" I see that Wotko, the Coon, has rings on his tail divided equally 
first a dark colour, then a- light colour. I think day and night ought 
to be divided equally, like the rings on Wotko's tail. 

The animals were surprised at the wisdom of Chew-thlock-chew. 
They adopted his plan, and divided day and night like the rings on 
Wotko's tail, succeeding each other in regular order. 

Nokosi, the Bear, in envy scratched the back of Chew-thlock-chew, 
and thus caused the stripes on the back of his descendants, the 
ground squirrels. 

How the Creek Indians got It 1 

All the people came together, and said : " How shall we obtain fire ? " 
It was agreed that the Rabbit should try to obtain fire for the 
people. He went across the great water to the East. He was 
received gladly, and a great dance was arranged. The Rabbit 
entered the dancing circle, gaily dressed, and wearing a peculiar 
cap on his head in which he had stuck four sticks of rosin. 

Rabbit also bowed to the fire, lower and lower. Suddenly, as he 
bowed very low, the sticks of rosin on his cap caught fire, and his 
head was a blaze of flame. 

After John R. S wanton. 


As the people danced they approached nearer and nearer to the 
sacred fire in the centre of the circle. The Rabbit also danced 
nearer to the fire. The dancers began to bow to the sacred fire, 
lower and lower. Rabbit also bowed to the fire, lower and lower. 
Suddenly, as he bowed very low, the sticks of rosin on his cap caught 
fire, and his head was a blaze of flame. 

The people were amazed at the impious stranger who had dared 
to touch the sacred fire. They ran at him in anger, and away ran 
Rabbit, the people pursuing him. He ran to the great yvater and 
plunged in, while the people stopped on the shore. 

Rabbit swam across the great water, with the flames blazing from 
his cap. He returned to his people, who thus obtained fire from 
the East. 


As explained by the Kamba, a Bantu Tribe of British East Africa x 

The great old man in Heaven said : " Well, I have created men. 
They die. But I don't want them to be dead altogether. They 
should rise again. " 

He created the people and set them loose in a distant region. As 
to himself, he stayed at home. 

For three days he was visited by the Chameleon and the Weaver- 
bird, and he noticed that the Weaver-bird is very talkative and that his 
words are composed of truths and lies. But he uses more lie-words 
than truth-words. On the other hand, the great old man realized 
that the Chameleon was a wise creature whose words were truthful. 
So he turned to the Chameleon and said : 

" Go to the place where the people dwell whom I have created. 
Tell them : when they die, and even if they are very, very dead, 
they shall nevertheless rise again. Every man shall be able to rise 
after death." 

The Weaver-bird remained with the great old man. In the mean- 
time the Chameleon had arrived at the humans' place, and began : 
" I have been told ... I have been told ..." Well, he had forgotten 
the message ! 

The Weaver-bird said to the great old man : " Let me fly a bit 
at the Chameleon's side," and he was told : " Go ! " He just 
arrived when the Chameleon turned helplessly to the humans to 
stammer again : " I have been told . . ." 

Immediately the Weaver-bird fell in and said : " We have been 
told that when humans die they have to perish like the roots of the 
aloe." But the Chameleon who now remembered said : 

" No ! We have been told to say : * When people die, they shall 
rise again ! " 

Since each of the two insisted that his message was the right one, 

1 Adapted from Brutzer. 



and since they could come to no agreement, they called upon the 
magpie to be their arbitrator. 

" The Weaver-bird is right, the Chameleon is wrong ! " was the 
decision of the magpie. 

Since that time men have to die, and cannot rise again. 

A Karuk Indian Myth l 

Acorns were formerly members of the Ikxareyav tribe, the Indians 
who were here before we came and who turned into the animals, 
rocks, things, and ceremonies which the Karuk hold dear. 

In falling, they became giddy, and shut their eyes 
and turned their faces into their hats. . . . 

1 Adapted from John P. Harrington. 



Three acorn girls, Black Oak Acorn, Tan Oak Acorn, and Post 
Oak Acorn, decided that they should have nice-looking hats, and 
they started weaving them, each one for herself. At that time the 
Ikxareyavs still lived in Heaven. While they were weaving the 
girls felt that something unusual was going on, and they said to each 
other: "We'd better go! Human is being raised/' 

Black Oak Acorn did not finish her hat. Tan Oak Acorn did 
not have the time to clean off the projecting straws from the inside 
of her hat, so she just turned it wrong side out and wore it that way. 
Only Post Oak Acorn had finished and cleaned her hat. When 
they got ready they were joined by Maul Oak Acorn, who wore a nice 

Suddenly, they fell from the Heavens into Human's place. 
Anticipating their future destinies, they said : " Human will spoon 
us up." In falling, they became giddy, and shut their eyes and turned 
their faces into their hats. 

When they arrived on earth they grew jealous of one another. 
Tan Oak Acorn wished bad luck toward Post Oak Acorn and Maul 
Oak Acorn, only because they had nicer hats. They, in turn, wished 
her to be black. The bad wishes came true, and so it happens that 
to-day nobody likes to eat Post Oak Acorn and that Maul Oak Acorn 
does not taste good either, because she is hard to pound. The soup 
they make is black ; it is not good soup. 

Before they spilled down they had just painted themselves. 
Black Oak Acorn was striped ; she is still striped when we pick her 
up from the ground to-day. But Tan Oak Acorn did not paint herself 
much ; she didn't think it worth while because her hat was not 

Because they turned their faces into their hats when they fell 
they still have their faces in their hats nowadays. 

As told on the Gazelle Peninsula, Melanesia l 

We had shell money in the olden times, and we had to travel only 
four days to the place where it abounded. But now it takes us six 
months to find it. Why ? Just listen. 

One day the men boarded their boats to make the short trip to 
the money land, and the whole village was at the beach to see them 
off. An old man warned : " Be polite toward every one you meet," 
and they left. 

After a short while they met the hermit-crab, who courteously 
wished them a good morning. The men in the boat laughed at 

1 Adapted from P. J. Meier. 


him and said : " Look at the ugly face of that fellow ! Isn't he 
disgusting ? " And they did not greet him. 

The hermit-crab said to them : " Just go ahead ! You will not 
find any more shell money ! The shells will move far away to a 
distant place. Men like you are not worthy of them ! " 

And really, the men could not find a single shell. Sadly and 
empty-handed, they returned. And there was no more money to 
be had. 

One day a little boy who was hungry asked his parents for food, 
but they would not give him any. They scolded him and said : 
" Why don't you eat the dirt or the dirt of children who are your 
playmates ? " Sadly he went to the beach, where he met an old 
tree lying in the water. 

On their way they met another dug-out in which a 
cassowary sat and paddled. After an exchange of polite 
greetings, they passed each other. 

" What is the matter with you ? " asked the trunk. " Why are 
you so sad ? " 

" My father and mother have scolded me," said the boy, " I 
don't know what to do." 

" Jump in," said the tree which the boy now recognized as a 
dug-out, and they swam out into the sea. There were coconuts 
in the canoe, and the boy could drink and eat. With great speed 
they moved on and on until they finally landed at Nakanai, the 
place where the shell money is found to-day. The dug-out now 
advised the boy to weave baskets, two and eight and ten until 
he had thirty of them and to line them up along the surf. 

" Step back," said the dug-out, and suddenly a gigantic wave came, 
all filled with shells. It reached over the thirty baskets, and filled 
them all before it withdrew. 

They were now no longer alone at the beach, because another 
dug-out had landed, steered by a rooster who was quite friendly and 
offered to take the boy back to his home in his canoe. He carried the 
thirty baskets full of shell money all in the rooster's canoe, and off 


they went in the direction of the boy's village. On their way they 
met another dug-out in which a cassowary sat and paddled. After 
an exchange of polite greetings they passed each other. 

Finally they reached the boy's home village, and while he went to 
his parents' house the rooster stayed in the canoe to guard the money 
baskets. When the boy reached the hut the boy saw that a funeral 
scaffold had been erected, that mourners had been invited, and that 
everything was ready for a funeral. 

" All this has been prepared for you," said the boy's father and 
mother. " We thought you were dead, and we spent our last money 
on these preparations." 

The boy took a large package of food, and asked his parents to 
follow him to the beach. There he thanked the rooster, gave him 
the food, and unloaded the thirty money baskets. The rooster jumped 
in again, and swam and swam until he was back at Nakanai. 

" What shall we do with these shells ? " asked the parents, because 
their former money had been of another shape. 

" Drill holes into them and thread them on strings." So they did. 
The boy tied them to a large hoop, and gave it to his parents. 

" Take this as a compensation for the expenses I have caused you," 
he said, and his parents returned happily to their home. The boy, 
however, took the rest of the money and it was very much built 
his own hut, and was now the wealthiest person in the whole village. 

From time to time, under his guidance, the men of the village made 
an expedition to the island of Nakanai, whose overlords are the 
rooster and the cassowary, but they never find as many shells as the 
boy owns, and although they carefully pay their homage to the two 
masters of the island, the trip takes them six months, and they remain 
dependent upon the good will of the shells, the canoes, the cock, 
and the cassowary. 


A Tale of East African Ukamba l 

Those earliest people of long ago who came up out of a termitary 
were given all sorts of food, but they had to eat it raw ; it was not 

One day a woman set out from the village and went to the river. 
She went to fetch water from the river in some rolled-up leaves. At 
the shore she found a peculiar-looking piece of rock, hollow in the 
middle. She filled it with water, and carried it home, where she put 
it on her hearth. When she prepared the food for her family in the 
evening she put some of the maize and bean mush into the hollow 
stone and boiled it and, lo and behold, it tasted wonderful and much 
better than raw food. 

1 Adapted from Gerhard Lindblom. 


Next morning a neighbour dropped in, saw the hollow stone, 
admired it, and asked whether the woman had another one like it to 
give to her. 

" No," said the first woman, " I found it near the river, and there 
was just one/' 

" Let us go there and look for another one ! " 

So the two women started off and looked around. There was no 
other stone like it, but there was fat and slippery clay, and they took 
some of it, mixed it with water, and tried to imitate the shape of the 
hollow stone. For five days they tried, and finally they made little 
things which they called clay vessels. They burned them in a fire, 
and they became hard and firm as stone. 

At home they put them on the fireplace and invited all the rest of 
the women : 

" Come and see ! We have prepared this earth, and we are able 
to boil water in it which does not come out on the fireplace." And 
they also cooked mush in the vessels, and it tasted wonderful ! The 
other women tried to imitate their handicraft, but they did not 
succeed, and whoever wanted a nyun'gu or clay pot had to order it 
from the two women, who were paid for it in beautiful blue beads. 

And they called all the men, and there was a big celebration to 
commemorate the invention of the clay vessels. The women's 
husbands especially invited the holy old men who spit in the women's 
hands to bless them. 

" Pt, pt, pt" made the old men, and ttey said : " You have become 
very clever. You made the clay vessels ! " 

And they advised the women never to allow a man to watch them 
while making clay vessels, otherwise they would lose their skill. They 
abided by this faithfully. 

That is how mankind learnt to make clay vessels, and our people 
have been blessed with them ever since. 

A Myth of the Carrier Indians of British Columbia x 

The Grouse and a Carrier Indian sat down beside each other, and 
the Grouse, in a generous mood, showed the man how to make snow- 
shoes, which the animals used since the earliest times to walk over the 
deep snow. Grouse told him every detail, and the man learnt from him 
how to make the frame. When the first frame was ready the Indian's 
wife was called in, and Grouse showed her how to lace them with 
leather strings. So the woman laced the first pair. They thanked 
Grouse, and he left them to go back home. 

1 Adapted from Diamond Jenness. 



He had gone only a little way when he fell dead, for he had talked 
too much. 

That is how the Carrier Indians learnt to make snow-shoes. 
Even if we have the best intentions, we should not talk too much. 

A Tale of the Tlingit Indians l 

A man of the Seal People Band who was a very skilled wood-carver 
thought that the Indians would be happier if there were killer whales, 
and he set out to make one. 

He first tried to carve it out of red cedar, then of hemlock, then of 
all other kinds of wood in succession. He took each set of figures to 
the beach and tried to make them swim out, but instead they floated 
only on the surface. Last of all he tried yellow cedar, and this time 
he was successful. 

He made different kinds of whales. On one he marked white lines 
with Indian chalk from the corners of its mouth back to its head. 
He said : 

" This is going to be the white-mouthed killer whale." When he 
first put them into the water he headed them up the inlet, telling 
them that whenever they went up to the heads of the bays they were 
to hunt for seal, halibut, and all other things under the sea ; but he 
told them not to hurt a human being. He told them : 

" When you are going up the bay people will say to you : * Give 
us something to eat.* " 

The whales followed his instructions, and since that time they 
drive the water creatures towards the shore so that the Indians can 
catch them. 

Before this, people did not know what a killer whale was. 

As the Carrier Indians tell It 2 

A newly married couple left Fraser Lake to hunt in the mountains 
to the southward, where they camped alone near a small stream. 
The woman grew lonely when her husband was absent from morning 
until evening, and to pass the time made a small dam across the 
stream ; but her husband, finding that it made the water too deep 
for him to wade across, broke it down with his foot. 

She burst into tears, and said : " Why did you break it ? I was 
lonely while you were away, and built it to pass the time/' 

The next day she made another dam, and he broke that also. This 

1 Adapted from John R. Swanton. 2 Adapted from Diamond Jenness. 



happened again and again until she became very angry. One evening 
when her husband returned from his hunting he found a very large 
dam spanning the stream and a beaver-house in the middle of the 
water. His wife was kneeling on the edge of the pond with her 
breech-cloth in her hand. She tucked it between her legs as soon 
as she saw her husband coming, leaped into the water, and entered 
the beaver-house. The man broke down the dam and let out all 
the water, but he could not find her. Then he broke down the 
beaver-house. Still he could not find her. So that night he slept 

I changed into a beaver. Now go back home, for I 
cannot live with you any more. 

He went hunting again the next morning, and when he returned 
his wife had repaired the dam and was working on the lodge. Already 
she was changing into a beaver. She eluded all his attempts to 
capture her. 

He became afraid that her people would blame him for killing her 
if she would not show up again, so he went and returned with her 
whole family, and they all assembled at the shore. 

They saw a large beaver leaping out of the water and sitting on 
the top of her house. It was the woman, whose trailing breech-cloth 
had become a large flat tail. She called to her people : 

" My husband did not kill me, but I changed into a beaver. Now 
go back home, for I cannot live with you any more." 

That is why the beaver's belly and intestines resemble those of a 
human being and why there are now beavers in this world. 



A Tale of the Cochiti Indians of New Mexico 1 

At Painted Cave there was a village, and out of this village came 
the Deer, the Bear, the Lion, the Lynx, and the Wild Cat. They 
said : 

" Now we will go East and find our living the best we can." But 
before they went they said : 

" There is one thing we have not got, and that is the cat. But 
how can we get the cat ? " 

The Lion stood in the middle of the circle, and all the oldest 
animals were smoking round him. He said : 

" Well, I am ready." 

He sneezed, and out came a female cat from his right nostril. He 
sneezed again, and out of the left nostril came a male cat. 

From these two come all the little cats, and they came down to 
Cochiti. The Lion said to the cats : 

" Now you are the offspring of the Lion and have my face. When 
you have little kittens the humans will want them, because with these 
cats they won't have mice any more. They will be the watchmen of 
the houses. The rest of the animals shall live in the mountains, but 
you two cats shall live in Cochiti." So it happened, and that is why 
we have cats to-day. , 

As told by the Fjort of the French Congo 2 

In the first days of Creation four men wandered through an im- 
mense forest severed from the world beyond two rivers, one of which 
had clear water, but the other one was dark and muddy. At that 
time all people were white, and there were no black men in the world. 

The dark river lay in front of the four men's path, but the clear 
stream was more pleasant to wade through. After deliberating, the 
men decided to go through the dark water, and two of the four did 
so at once. The other two hesitated, and ran away. The two men 
in the dark stream called to them and urged them to follow, but in 
vain. Their comrades ran to the clear river, and waded through it. 
When they climbed out they saw to their horror that they had become 
black, and only those parts of their bodies with which they had touched 
the dark river remained clean their mouths, the soles of their feet, 
and the palms of their hands. 

When the four comrades met again they decided to part company. 
When they reached their journey's end the black men found only 

L Adapted from Ruth Benedict. 2 After R. E. Dennett. 


huts and married the black women they found in them. The white 
men who had climbed out of the dark river found enormous houses 
with white women in them, and married them. 

That is why some people are white and some black. 

A Myth of the West African Mandingo. 1 

Once there lived a great hero, and his name was Gassire. He 
pounced upon his enemies and looted their homes, and he thought 
that the glory of his deeds would never be forgotten. 

One day when he returned home from a fierce battle he saw in the grass 
a partridge who sat there and sang. And this was the partridge's song : 

" No sword is so powerful that the man who carried it would not be 
forgotten. Perishable are your warlike deeds, O Gassire, because they 
originate in brute force. I, too, who sing this song, will be forgotten 
but not my song ! Thanks to the gods who allowed me to sing the 
song called Dausi ! Heroes and cities and countries will be forgotten 
some day but never Dausi, the song that will live on for ever ! " 

When Gassire, the hero, heard this song of the partridge he became 
very thoughtful, and he began to ponder. He went to a wise old man 
to ask his advice. The wise old man said : 

" The partridge is right ! Perishable are the deeds of the sword ! 
Heroes and cities and countries will be* forgotten but never Dausi, 
the song that will live on for ever ! " 

Upon this, Gassire, the hero, went to a blacksmith. All good 
things in Africa are made by the smiths. Gassire said : 

" Build me a lute, so that I may play on it Dausi, the song that will 
always live." 

The blacksmith said : 

" I will make you one. But the lute will not be able to sing." 

Gassire said : " Smith, do your job. The rest is up to me." 

The smith built the lute and brought it to Gassire. Gassire 
touched it, and tried to play it. But the lute did not sing. Gassire 
said to the smith : 

" What is this ? Why doesn't the lute sing ? " 

The smith said : " I told you so in advance." 

Gassire said : " Make the lute sing ! " 

But the smith answered : "I did my job. The rest is up to you." 

Gassire asked : " What shall I do ? " 

The smith answered : " The lute is a piece of wood. It cannot 
sing because it has no heart. It is up to you to provide it with a 
heart. The wood must go to battle on your back. It must absorb 
the tears from your eyes and the breath from your breath. Your 
sorrows must become its sorrows ; your glory must become its glory. 

1 Adapted from Leo Frobenius. 



The wood must cease to be part of the tree from which it was shaped. 
It must become a part of your destiny/' 

Upon this, Gassire called his eight sons and said to them : 

" To-day we all go to battle. But the deeds of our swords shall 
not be forgotten. The sound of our weapons shall live on through 
the times. I and you, my eight sons, shall live on in the song whose 
name is Dausi." 

So they went to battle, and they fought like heroes. Gassire 
carried the lute on his back. The beating of his brave heart echoed 
in its wood, and the sweat of his exhaustion moistened the lute when 
he went home victoriously. 

For eight days he went to battle with his eight sons, and always he 
carried the lute on his back. And every day one of his eight sons 
was killed. Gassire carried their corpses back on his shoulders, and 
their blood dripped on the lute. When he had no son left he wept 
for the first time in his life, and his tears fell upon the lute. 

Night fell, and all people went to sleep, but not Gassire, who sat 
by the fire alone. He thought of his glorious deeds and thought them 
all in vain, and again he wept in his deep loneliness. 

Suddenly he heard a voice next to him. It sounded as though it 
came out of his own inner self. Gassire listened. He began to 
tremble. He heard the lute sing. The lute sang Dausi, the song 
that never dies. Not his deeds but his tears had given a heart to the 
lute. That was why it coulcj sing. 

It is many centuries since Gassire lived. The sound of his sword 
is forgotten. But we to-day still sing the song of his heart Dausi, 
the song that will always live. And those who will be born long 
after us will go on singing it. 


Journey's End 

OVER ALL THE things we do and own, over our happiness and 
our grief, stands, as an ever-present mene tekel, the knowledge 
that " this, too, shall pass." The Bible promises us a span of life 
of " threescore years and ten " and perhaps, " by reason of strength 
. . . fourscore years, " after which we have to " fly away/' Modern 
statistics show that most of us are not given that long. Even 
the latest wonder drug of science, which is supposed to extend 
human life expectancy to a century and a half, cannot nullify the 
inevitability of death. 

The manner in which we resign ourselves to the knowledge that 
some day our hearts will stop beating depends on our individual 
philosophy of life, on the depth of the sources that reconcile us with 
death. " All men are condemned to death only the date of the 
execution is uncertain " is the consolation with which Victor Hugo's 
condemned criminal is comforted in the guillotine's shadow. This 
forethought of the inevitability of dea^h stands in sharp contrast to 
the conceptions of primitive man. Though surrounded by the 
ever-present evidences of death that are even more obvious in the 
wilderness than in civilization, and dependent upon the necessity 
to kill living creatures, it does not occur to primitive man as a 
logical necessity that, in the course of nature, he himself must die. 
He does not realize the certainty of death. 

To most primitives the state of death is a mishap caused by 
supernatural forces, most of all by witchcraft. A lethal illness is 
the evidence of evil influences, and even accidents are caused by a 
conspiracy of hostile spirits. In Australia, in South and North 
America, in Melanesia, Africa, Madagascar, and elsewhere, the 
origin of death lies in * unnatural ' occurrences which man accepts 
only with repugnance and fear. Even errors on the part of the 
supernatural may cause it, as some of the ancient myths explain. 
Many tribes also believe that sexual intercourse and death are inter- 
related and that the * invention ' of the first led to the introduction 
of the second. 

Primitive people are not given to any speculating whatsoever on 
their own future death, which may or may not come. It may be 
that shrewdness, carefulness, and worship of the proper spirits can 
make an eternal existence on earth a reality who knows ? The 



African Kpelle, for instance, worship their old men and women 
because they have been smart enough to avoid for many years the 
attacks of wizards, demons, and jealous ancestors. 

Whatever the explanations, so much is sure : all peoples on earth 
have very definite ideas on what happens to a man or woman who 
is dead. Most believe in a clearly described place where the 
departed continue their existence under circumstances similar to 
those on earth, and that all people bury their dead in a manner 
conforming to these conceptions. 

As to the ways in which the survivors take care of the bodies of 
the departed, even the most primitive cultures use such a multitude 
of methods that it is hopeless to speculate on which is the oldest 
form of burial. In Tasmania and Australia people were cremated 
on pyres or buried in graves. Many northern and western Austra- 
lian tribes bury their dead in trees or on scaffolds high up in the 
air, or lay their bodies to rest in caves, as in Victoria. The dead 
may be dried in the sun or over the fire and then deposited in a 
tree, or they may be hidden in a hollow trunk. On San Cristobal 
twenty-one different types of funerals are known, from burial in the 
earth, in the sea, in rocks, on trees or scaffolds, and in large bags, 
to cremation and mummification. 

All these methods and the, great care applied in disposing of the 
body are not exclusively inspired by concern for the welfare of the 
departed, but are the result of the fear that the person excluded 
from community life by the * accident ' of death may find means of 
returning from his state of alleged immobility to frighten or harm 
those who survive him. This idea of the revengeful jealousy of the 
dead goes, like a red thread, through the burial customs of all 
mankind since prehistoric times, up to our own civilization. The 
stones that weigh down the soil over the Tasmanian grave, the 
fettered mummies of Egypt, the nailed coffins of our days, all 
originate in this atavistic fear. 

Manifold are the means used to keep the body in its grave. The 
Tasmanians tied the bodies to prevent them from moving. In 
Australia the hollow tree which serves as a coffin may be pierced 
with a spear to nail the neck of the departed to his prison, or the 
whole tree may be set on fire after the burial. The nailing of the 
dead to wooden boards in their grave developed into a regular 
funeral rite in prehistoric Spain. Whole cemeteries have been 
found where the skeletons showed all the evidences of a ' second 
killing* by the piercing of their skulls with huge nails. This 
custom was practised all through the ages, and later on was obviously 
limited only to restricted groups of the population, It lives on in 



a curse of present-day Aragona : " May you be nailed like a Jew " 
(clavado to veas, comojudio). 

All over the earth primitive tribes thus take precautions that the 
silent prisoner may find it impossible to leave his grave to direct 
his powers against the community. The many shapes the dead are 
able to assume make their reappearance doubly hazardous. In 
south-eastern Australia the dead stand as stars on the sky ; they 
have secret intercourse with the wizards of the tribes, and even 
ordinary men and women occasion- 
ally hear their voices and in the 
morning see the tracks of their feet. 
The corpse itself may live on, though 
slightly changed in appearance. The 
first white men appearing in some 
regions in Australia and Africa were 
taken for the spirits of the tribal 

To persuade the deceased to stay 
in his burial place, his friends and 
relatives try to make his new home 
as comfortable as possible. The 
face and body are protected from 
immediate contact with the soil ; 
the departed may be bedded in a 
niche in the rocks to shelter him 
from the elements. A handsome 
young man of the Australian Wimmera tribe who had been buried 
in the ground was, as his tribesmen decided, " too uncomfortable " 
in his grave when the chilly November rains set in. His friends 
exhumed him and gave him a better burial place in a hollow tree 
which they firmly sealed for his comfort. 

In addition, the dead may be honoured with speeches and 
promises, but after these gestures of consideration the living leave 
the place of death as quickly as possible to avoid giving their former 
comrade any opportunity to haunt them. Even in the oldest 
cultures, however, we find the custom of simply exposing the dead 
and leaving them to the mercy of the animals, a method which, for 
other reasons, is especially typical of the arctic cultures and of the 
herdsmen societies. Sometimes the actual moment of death is not 
even waited for, and the tribesmen hurry away to escape the spirit 
of the abandoned before he has breathed for the last time. 

When a tribesman was accidentally drowned the Mojos Indians 
of eastern Bolivia ran immediately into the woods for fear that the 


Puig Castellar (Spain) 

After H. Obermaier 


departed might snatch one of them for company. The Neoze of 
the same region wrap their dead in mats and build a small hut of 
mocatu leaves over the body, but then they hurry away. Where 
the dead are buried on a scaffold or in trees, the bones may later 
be collected and buried in the ground, and some parts of the skeleton 
may be carried around reverently to assure the dead of continued 
remembrance and at the same time to utilize the magic powers 

inherent in the relics. 

The Australians paint % such bones 
or skulls with red or yellow ochre 
to preserve them as tokens of rever- 
ence. The Andamanese, who bury 
their dead crouching in the soil or 
lying on platforms in the trees, later 
collect the bones and fashion them 
into ornaments which friends and 
relatives of the departed wear. 
The bones left on the smouldering 
funeral pyre were carefully col- 
lected by the western Tasmanians. 
Tied in animal skins, they were 

SKULL, PAINTED IN RED, carried about by the relatives as 

amulets against sickness and bad 
luck. This custom lives on in the 
habit of modern Japanese who pick 
the remaining bones from the place 
of cremation. Grieving fathers, for 
instance, thus collect the bones of their departed children and 
keep them at a place of reverence. 

Another morbid relic of the dead is the liquid that drips from 
the corpses laid to rest on lofty wooden structures. It is supposed 
to have magic qualities which the living utilize for themselves. 
The young men of certain tribes of eastern Queensland, like the 
Kuinmurburra, who deposit the bodies of their great warriors on 
wooden scaffolds, let this liquid run over their bodies to absorb the 
heroic qualities of the deceased. The natives of the Belendenker 
region rub their bodies with this essence to become strong ; the 
Narrinyeri collect it in containers and use it in their magic 

This effort to utilize the magic powers of the ancestors for th< 
benefit of the living finds even stronger expression in the cultures 
of the agriculturists. Being settled and unable to leave the place 
of death, they had to find means to be on permanently good terms 


Kopapinga Tribe, 
Arnhemland, Australia 

After F. D. McCarthy 


with the departed. Their entire approach towards the phenomena 
of life and death is determined and dominated by their close 
relationship to the dead ancestors whose souls live with and among 
them in continuous relationship. Although the soul may not be 
immortal in our sense, it lives on in parts of the body or in other 
forms of rebirth. It may, however, * age ' and fade away after a 
certain period has elapsed. 

In many places, for instance on the New Hebrides, it is assumed 
that the soul may die two or three additional deaths until it dis- 
appears altogether. It often seems as though the spirits of the 
ancestors can only remain ' alive ' if continued remembrance and 
sacrifice tie them to the living. Many agricultural peoples know a 
regular system of a series of reincarnations, although without the 
ethical conceptions which influence the idea of rebirth in higher 
cultures. The Dayak of Borneo, for instance, believe that a soul 
can dwell seven times as long in the land of the Great Beyond as 
on earth and that it finally returns once more to earth to be reborn 
in a mushroom, a fruit, a leaf, a blade of grass, or a flower. If a 
human being eats such a plant or part of a plant a child will be 
born to him in whom the soul of the grass or plant lives on. 

In times of stress and need the living appeal to the dead for help 
and assistance. These appeals are often in the form of regular 
formulae or prayers to the spirits of tlie dead ; they are supported 
by gifts. This continued care is in strict contrast to the attitude of 
the food gatherers and hunters, who do not know the sacrifice 
offered to the manes. 

The spirit that enlivens a man is believed to be located in parts 
of his body be it in the heart, brains, blood, liver, kidney, the 
breath, or the shadow. However, most often the principal seat of 
the spirit of the dead is the head, which gains an overwhelming 
significance as the centre of mystical powers in these cultures. 
Skulls are the objects of intensive worship. In the younger com- 
plexes of the agriculturist cultures, particularly, this worship leads 
to a post-lethal exhumation of the skull because it is believed to be 
the precious seat of spiritual powers. Often these skulls are not 
only painted and decorated, but also modelled with clay into lifelike 
images with eyes of shells or stones, and are preserved in homes, 
in community houses, or in special containers, as objects of religious 
awe. Palavers and sessions of the native courts are held in their 
revered presence ; vital decisions are made with their support. 

This desire to make use of the powers located in the skull leads 
not only to the custom of preserving the heads of one's own deceased 
family members, but to the desire to obtain as many heads as 

3 68 


possible, even from strangers. Men, women, and children of other 
tribes may be killed for the mere purpose of obtaining such heads. 
Melanesia and South America are the regions where head-hunting 
is practised for this reason, and the scalps of the North American 
Indians are magic tokens whose high evaluation goes back to the 
same idea. The stronger and the more prominent the victim, 

the greater are the magic 
powers of his head or 

Not only the skull but 
also the soft parts of the 
head are preserved and 
carefully mummified, a 
custom most highly de- 
veloped in the prepara- 
tion of the famed head 
trophies of the Jivaro 

Only warriors who 
have killed an enemy 
and have dipped their 
spears into his blood 
have the privilege of 
preparing such trophies. 
The hair of the victim 
is carefully parted, and 
an incision is made from 

PAINTED SKULL, MODELLED WITH CLAY the forehead to the base 

of the skull, whereupon 
the skin is pulled off the 
skull, in which only the 
eyes and the tongue 
remain. The soft parts are then sewn together with fibre thread ; 
the lips are firmly united with bamboo splints. Only the neck open- 
ing remains unclosed. The skin bags are now heated in water and 
removed before the boiling-point has been reached. At this stage 
they are shrunk to about a third of their original size. The 
medicine men of the tribe, who supervise every detail of this 
ceremony, now give the signal that the final preparation of the head 
may begin. Hot sand is poured into the neck openings and the 
stuffed heads are * ironed ' with hot stones, a procedure which is 
repeated for about forty-eight hours, until the skin has assumed 
the smooth, hard, and tough consistency of leather. 

New Ireland 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 



Eastern Melanesia 

Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 

" The whole head," says Up de Graff, who furnishes a detailed 
description of the procedure, " has now the dimensions of a good- 
sized orange. Its likeness to the 
living person is extraordinary. 
In fact, the shrunken heads are 
exact miniatures of their former 
selves. Every trait, hair, and 
scar remains unchanged, and 
even the facial expression is pre- 
served/' Since the hair main- 
tains its original length it forms 
a long mane, effectively framing 
the strikingly 
preserved face, 
and whoever has 
an opportunity 
to see some of 
these trophies in 

the museums of the world will marvel at the 
lifelike impression they make, despite their hor- 
rible origin and the gruesome method of their 

The lifelikeness of the New Guinean stuffed 
heads cannot equal those of the Jivaro trophies, 
but their appearance is equally impressive. The 
Dorro head-hunters who shape these heads stuff 
them with bark and coconut fibre ; they pull out 
the hair of the head, and fill the orbits of the 
eyes with clay. 

The belief of the agriculturists in the super- 
natural powers of the head led to the development 
of carved masks. These are representations of 
the dead. The dances during which they are 
worn are not only for the purpose of worship- 
ping the spirits of the dead, but even more 
for the purpose of turning their magic powers 
into sources of benefit and strength for the 

These magnificently carved masks of the primitive agriculturists 
are, perhaps, the highest expression of their art and symbolism. 
Some African specimens have the appearance of Gothic saints. 
Others, especially of the South Seas, show whole arrays of symbolic 
animals and ghosts. The famous malagans of New Ireland are real 


After K. Weule 




New Guinea 
After A. C. Haddon 

This is always retained by 
the family. It is their inter- 
mediary between earth and 
the land where the departed 
spirits reside. o 

But not only do the souls 
of the dead wander ; even the 
souls of the living are not 
necessarily bound to their 
main seat, the head. A soul 
may leave its body at any 
time, as proved by dreams, 
those adventures of the 
wandering spirit. This belief 
lives on in the sagas and 
superstitions of all peoples, 
from Greece and Rome to the 
backward regions of present- 
day civilizations, where we 
find old tales describing a 
mouse, a bumble - bee, or 
similar creature that departs 
from the mouth of a sleeper, 
carrying his soul to the scenes 
of his dreams, and returns 
upon his awakening. 

or symbolic representations of 
the souls of the dead. They 
are known by the individual 
names of the departed. The 
base of the long pillar of carved 
images is most often a pig's 
head the gift of honour of the 
relatives to the deceased. 

The close relationship between 
skull-and-bone worship and the 
carved mask is illustrated by a 
custom of the Nor-Papua of 
New Guinea, who immediately 
after a burial lay a richly decor- 
ated carved mask on the place of 
the departed, which is honoured 
in his stead until his lower jaw 
can be secured from the grave. 


Southern Congo 
Museum of Ethnology, Cologne 


By means of magic, it may also happen that a foreign soul may 
enter the body of a sleeper and cause the state of mind which we 
call insanity. 

When a person dies his spirit has permanently left the body, 
often because an evil magician has driven it away. For this reason 
the search for the guilty one who caused the death is a very frequent 
feature in the agricultural societies. The spirit of the dead person 
still lingers near his body, especially before burial, and only after 
a second, final burial which takes place when the flesh has decayed 
can this spirit or soul travel to the land which the gods have 
established for the departed. Often other souls come from the 
Beyond as a reception committee to lead the new dweller safely into 
the land of the Hereafter. Thus, the Apache dead were met by 
owls who called to carry their spirits away to the happy hunting- 
grounds. Sometimes the dead person pays formal good-bye visits 
to his remaining friends and relatives. On Ponape, his body before 
burial is carried round from hut to hut, receiving at each stop the 
loud lamentations of the survivors. A man takes his paddle with 
him to his grave, a woman her loom. A little hut is erected over 
the place of burial, where the nearest relative sleeps for five or six 
nights, after which the hut is removed and the mourners with their 
reverently clipped hair return to their ,daily routine. 

The search for the * guilty ' is especially elaborate among the 
Pangwe, where the funeral ceremony is the opportunity to find out 
whether the departed himself was perhaps a magician who might 
have caused the deaths of others. If this should be the case the 
ewu will be found in his entrails, an evil thing that sets the deceased 
apart as a demonic wizard who is not entitled to the same type of 
funeral as the * good ' men who are * sons of the light.' To clarify 
the situation, the medicine-man or mot a Kn (' the man who cuts 
open ') is the most important officiant at the funeral ceremony. 
But before he does his duty an older man steps forth from the large 
crowd of the mourners to deliver the funeral oration, whose climax 
is an invitation of blood revenge if the ' guilty party ' who caused 
this death should be identified. After this the body is brought to 
the centre of the gathering on a large piece of bark. His clothes 
and bracelets, neck-rings, etc., are removed, and he is carried into 
the plantation behind the houses, next to his open grave, which is 
laid out with fresh leaves. 

Now comes the great moment for the medicine-man to decide 
whether the deceased was a * son of light ' or an evil magician. He 
opens the body, examines the entrails, and proclaims his verdict. 
According to his findings, the dead man now receives the careful 


funeral of the ' good ' in a bark coffin, or his body is hastily disposed 
of in the manner reserved for the * evil/ 

The relatives mourn a deceased person by wearing dry leaves 
instead of their usual garb ; by shaving their heads, abstaining from 
sexual intercourse, and confining themselves to their houses. 
Occasionally their faces and bodies are painted white, the colour 
of death. 

The soul of a dead Pangwe may linger on earth in the shape of 
a wild animal, to wreak vengeance upon the person wfto caused his 
death. On the other hand, the soul may be kind. When, for 
instance, the loving father of a poor son dies he may sacrifice his 
next life for his son by transforming himself into a tiger and allowing 
his son to kill him, and therewith kill his soul. By this sacrifice 
he enables his son to sell the valuable skin and bones of the tiger 
and buy himself a wife. Before a dead Pangwe follows the invita- 
tion of the ancestral souls to travel with them to the land of Nsambe 
(he recognizes their presence during his last agonies, and greets 
them with a " There they are ! ") he may stay for a time near the 
shadows of the trees, where one can hear his whisperings at night. 
After about a year the survivors assume that he is ready to leave for 
the land of Nsambe. His best clothes are ceremoniously displayed 
near his hut, and the occasion is celebrated with a joyous festival, 
where dances and big meals are the order of the day. 

The land of the souls, ruled by Nsambe, the creator-god, is a 
pleasant place, patterned after the model of the earthly existence, 
but perfected in every sense. Nsambe gives to the souls gigantic 
plantations, animals, and woods. Food and many women are at 
the disposal of the happy community. The l bad ' are pardoned, 
and everybody has a magnificently good time. Even the souls, 
however, grow old, and they cannot stay in heaven for ever. So 
Nsambe, " who cannot stand ugly things/' kicks them out of his 
land when they become decrepit. Falling down upon the land of 
the Pangwe, they remain there, weak and invisible. Only some 
animals sense their presence, especially the termites, who build 
their hills over the ' bodies ' of these weak old souls. When the 
termitary finally crumbles to dust, it means that the soul has returned 
to its original substance, the dust, from which also sun and moon 
and earth once originated. 

The departed now lives on only in his skull which has been 
exhumed by his family to join the other, older skulls in the skull 
drum in the hut. In times of stress, when Nsambe has sent illness 
or bad harvests, the skulls are taken out, led about in a sacred dance, 
and implored to put in their good word with the Pangwe god. If 



this appeal does not help the skulls fall into disgrace, are threatened 
and insulted, and put away for a long, long time. 

Parts of termitaries are sought after as amulets and good-luck 
charms, because they contain some of the powerful soul substance 
of the dead. The belief that termites are the souls of men is wide- 
spread, especially in the South Seas. 

Dances in celebration of the departure of the dead are a general 
custom of the agriculturists from Africa to 
the South Seas, and in America. They are 
generally held about a year after the first 

To appease the dead, token figures or the 
actual belongings of the deceased are buried 
with them so that they may be equipped in 
proper fashion for their journey into the 
other land. Many tribes destroy all earthly 
possessions of the departed, not only to show 
him that they have no intention to ' rob ' 
him, but to destroy at the same time all 
possible substances of * infective ' death. 

The Algonquian tribes of New England 
killed the precious dogs of a dying m^n so 
that they could arrive before him in the 
other world. The fatally sick man even 
delivered his own funeral oration by reciting 
" his good deeds, giving some directions to 
his family, recommending his friends, and, 
finally, saying adieu." His friends showered 
him with gifts while banqueting on his 
food and assuring him of their grief with wild cries. When he 
finally died they swathed the body, tied it up in skins " with the 
knees against the stomach and the head on the knees, as we are in 
our mother's womb," and buried him in this position, together 
with all his possessions bags, bows, arrows, dogs, and a multitude 
of additional gifts provided by the mourners. 

Many of the wooden ancestral figures of the agriculturists show 
the typical crouching position of the dead, and many prehistoric 
skeletons have been found in this position. The Hopi, after 
washing the hair of their dead with a yucca fibre concoction, fix 
the corpse in a sitting position, with flexed knees and arms and tied 
with yucca if necessary. The departed is then decorated with 
* prayer feathers ' one in the hair, one placed under each foot * to 
take the body to the other world/ one in each hand, and one over 


After G. Tessmann 


the navel, ' the place where the breath of a man lives/ A deep 
grave is dug, and the man is interred, facing towards the west. 
" The hole is rapidly filled in with sand, and a stick of any sort is 
placed on the grave to serve as a ladder for the breath to depart 
westward, " as Beaglehole reports. 

The same idea of making it possible for the soul to leave the 
grave or to return to it is expressed in the New Guinean custom of 
putting a bamboo cane on the head of the buried. Although his 
ancestors and his totem animal have called for the soul immediately 
after death to take him to the better place, his spirit might like to 
return from time to time to his old form in the grave. 

Closely related to the practice of burying the dead in a crouching 
position is the use of large urns, baskets, or the like, as coffins. 
The Tupi tribes of South America put their dead in large clay 
urns to keep them safe from the soil and to make sure that the 
spirit of the dead does not return. Often the bones are cleaned 
afterwards, painted, and preserved in special baskets. The Bororo 
paste feathers on the bones of their dead, and celebrate their 
memory in elaborate feasts. The personality of the departed is 
dramatically revived by actors, to appease the spirit. Urn funerals, 
as the first or second (after the bones have been cleaned) burial, 
are frequent also among the, Chiriguano and elsewhere. 

Some interesting details about the way in which a departed 
Dusun of Borneo is placed into his funeral urn have been described 
by the explorer Staal, who saw the little hut of bamboo frame 
erected over the corpse immediately after death. 

Brass-ware, ornaments, precious cloth, are laid around and on top 
of this hut. Friends and neighbours lament their staunch friend, true 
neighbour, who could drink so well and even when drunk was kind 
and not a fighting man. At night two men watch and keep themselves 
aWake by beating gongs and courageous by taking deep draughts of 
their ' champagne/ The third day the corpse is put in a jar. When 
one sees the jars one wonders how in the world it is possible to get a 
full-grown person in it. The top of the jar is cut off at its greatest 
circumference with sharp knives. The feet are put in first, the knees 
bent, and the body is pressed down. The head is bent forward on 
the knees, or between them. The top is again put on and fastened 
with resinous matter and clay. The priestess waves a burning and 
smoking piece of wood over the coffin, chanting her unintelligible 
jargon. This is done to prevent the soul of any of the bystanders 
from escaping into the dead-receptacle. 

Since no burial may take place when the moon is full or just 
before the new moon the jar coffin is often kept in the house for a 


long time. People do not mind the * pestiferous air ' nor the flies 
and eat, drink, chat, and sleep there until the day comes when the 
jar can finally be buried in the earth. 

The African Djur bury in a cowering position only those who 
die in the fight * with man or beast/ Children and those who die 
in their beds are buried in a horizontal position. The grave is 
fenced in and cared for " until the termites have eaten it, whereupon 
it is forgotten, together with the human being it sheltered. " 

Related to the burial in urns or jars are the graves in the mounds 
of the American Indians in the upper Mississippi Valley and else- 
where. These mounds, however, cannot be older than a few 
centuries, because among the thousands of cultural objects which 
surround the dead in their jars or stone-lined graves are some 
objects obviously of white man's origin. The reason for this type 
of burial is given by Keating : " The graves were placed upon 
mounds in the prairies, this situation having doubtless been selected 
as being the highest and least likely to be overflowed/' 

The desire to protect the dead from the unfriendly influences of 
the soil, water, cold, and even from decay itself, has also led to the 
practice of preparing the body so that it will not be subjected to 
further changes or damages. This is the idea of mummification, 
the earliest forms of which are drying, or smoking of the body, as 
practised among the early harvesters. On the Gilbert Islands the 
mummies remain within the family circle for a long time. They 
take part in the dances of the people, are carried around, and enjoy 
all the attentions due to an honoured guest. 

An elaborate example of mummification as described by Manker 
is the treatment of the dead among the Belgian Congo Babwende, 
who prepare an important man or chieftain for his funeral by 
transforming him into a niombo. This is done immediately after 
death. The mourners in bast hats and old, ragged cloths, their 
faces painted red and black, hang the corpse on a tow under the 
roof of the deceased's hut over a fire which burns day and night. 
The funeral watch and the drying procedure go on for months, 
until the last trace of moisture has vanished from the body. 

In the meantime mountains of bast mats, cotton cloth, and 
similar materials are collected from the friends and relatives of the 
deceased " so that he does not have to enter the Other Land as a 
poor and disregarded pauper." The professional niombo master is 
now called to the hut. He arrives with the head of the niombo^ on 
which he has worked since the man died. It is a work of art, sewn 
from red cotton and stuffed with grass and similar materials. " The 
features are lively, the cheeks softly rounded, the thick-lipped 


mouth is open to show the filed-down teeth, the eyes are effectively 
encircled in red and black. A handsome beard decorates the chin. 
The black, dry corpse of the departed is now wrapped by the 
niombo master with the hundreds of yards of material into a gigantic 

bundle. Arms, legs, and feet 
are added and skilfully sup- 
ported by an inner structure. 
The tattoo of the deceased is 
painted on the chest of the 
effigy. When it is ready the 
niombo is bigger than a house. " 
On the day of the burial the 
whole village takes part in a 
huge banquet, after which a 
group of men carry the niombo 
to the funeral dance, in which 
he is whirled around high above 
the huts. Suddenly the whirl- 
ing stops. Silence befalls the 
mourners, and the funeral cor- 
tege leaves the village, following 
the gigantic red-painted figure 
wobbling on its supports. When 
it is lowered into the grave in 
a standing position everybody 
present makes a jump in the 
air lie who does not or cannot 

jump will follow the niombo 

Funeral Kffigy, containing Man's 

Babwenclc, West Africa 
After E. Mankcr 

very soon. All help to fill the 
huge grave, the top of which 
is decorated with the departed's 
tools and gadgets. The dead 
man's house is then burned 

Where does he go ? To a place of bliss, as a respected, influential 
man. There is no doubt that the generosity of his friends and 
family, who sent him off in so prosperous a manner, will impress 
his fellow- dwellers in the spirit land. 

The distant country to which the soul travels after death is, in 
the belief of the agricultural peoples, by no means a realm of 
dread. The spirit lives on under conditions comparable to those 
of his earthly existence, but unmarred by its frequent sorrows and 
mishaps. The dead live in communities patterned after those they 



left behind. They plant and harvest, fight and love all under 
ideal conditions. Agricultural peoples know what to expect in 
their next life ; speculation and painful uncertainty are alien to them. 

Different indeed is the conception of death found among the 
herdsmen and the Polynesian tribes, who both developed the idea 
of the individual to a much greater degree than the community- 
bound societies of the agriculturists. Their belief in a general 
survival of the spirit of the dead is much less accentuated, and their 
emphasis on classes or castes regulates their ideas of the hereafter. 
While the nobles and the chieftains can look forward to a continua- 
tion of the privileges they enjoyed on 
earth after death, some parts of the 
population are denied any spiritual 
survival whatsoever. 

Only the Polynesian rulers of 
Tonga are immortal, while the 
common men cease to exist at the 
moment of death. Many African 
herdsmen grant a spiritual existence 
after death only to the chieftains and 
the medicine - men ; the common 
people and especially the women 
cannot hope for a continued spiri- 
tual life. In general, death means 
destruction, and a survival in other 
forms is the exception. 

Traces of this attitude are evident even among harvesters like 
the Australian Aranda and Loritja, whose souls go to a land of the 
dead, but only for a short time, and are destroyed soon thereafter. 
Among the pre-Islamic Arabs and among the ancient Jews the idea 
of a life after death was very limited. The strong accent on the 
importance of the living individual seems to create the idea that 
death is an inevitable end to his activities. 

The worship of the sun, the typical feature of the father-right 
cultures, leads to a special emphasis on platform and scaffold graves, 
so that the departed may find himself exposed to the rays of the 
holy light as long as possible. For this reason, many American 
Indians lay their dead to rest on scaffolds or in trees. Many 
wooded sections east and west of the Mississippi Valley contain 
regular cemeteries where the bodies of the departed, carefully 
wrapped in mats or skins or birch bark, tower on trees and scaffolds. 
Skulls of sacrificed animals, gifts of tobacco, and bows and arrows 
adorn the lofty graves. Even under the influence of Christianity 



Crow Indians 

After D.I. Bmlmell, Jr. 


many an old tribe still sticks to its ancient burial methods. They 
adhere to the wish of old Spotted Tail of the Sichangu to go " not 
where the white people go but where the red people go." 

Often the type of burial is determined by the way in which the 
departed met his death. The Missisauga, for instance, buried the 
dead hunter on a very high scaffold, while those killed in war were 
cremated and their ashes carried to the burial grounds near the 
village. The custom of the Cheyenne of burying their dead on 
scaffolds in travois baskets is a fitting symbol of the way of life and 
death of a roaming plains tribe. 

Burial on platforms and scaffolds has deeply influenced the later 
customs of the highly-cultured peoples, especially of the Parsee of 
India, whose Zoroastrian conceptions led to the idea of keeping the 
corpse from any contact with the soil. In their * towers of silence ' 
the dead are exposed to swarms of vultures that skeletonize the 
bodies to spare the flesh from decay and, at the same time, to keep 
the worshipped flames of the fire free from devouring the unclean 
substances of the human body. 

Similar was the purpose of the so-called ' corpse-devouring ' 
sarcophagi of Assos, which Plinius describes as " eating the bodies 
of the dead within forty days." Such stone sarcophagi still stand 
on the piedestales of Assos. Modern science has proved that they 
were lined with aluminic lime and that they were not closed firmly 
enough to prevent blow-flies and their brood from penetrating the 
small clefts insects of which Linne said : " A fallen horse is 
quicker devoured by the descendants of three blow-flies than by 
a lion." 

Disregard of the dead body as a discarded shell without further 
purpose and significance led in many tribes of herdsmen and 
related societies to the simple abandonment of the corpse wherever 
it fell, a custom which can be found especially in East Africa. 
Related to it is the Polynesian practice of leaving the dead bodies 
put away in caves without taking any special care. 

These same people, who have so little use for the corpses of their 
departed, nevertheless often try to preserve the mortal remains of 
their nobles and rulers in a very permanent fashion. The custom 
of preserving these bodies, however, does not originate from the 
desire to worship the dead body as a container of an immortal, 
magic soul. Rather it is meant to extend the recognition enjoyed 
by the individual during his lifetime, by transforming him, so to 
speak, into a memorial monument of himself. This preservation 
is done by mummification. 

In younger complexes of the patriarchic cultures a marked 


preference for cremation becomes more and more evident. It also 
symbolizes the idea of the finality of death. In many regions, as, 
for instance, in Polynesia, only the noble and prominent ones are 
entitled to such funerals, and the type of pyre varies with their rank. 
India and eastern Asia have accepted this type of disposal of the 
corpse as part of their religious rituals ; and the public cremations 
of the dead, especially along the Ganges, belong to the sacrosanct 
Hindu customs. 

The -arctic peoples of America and Asia, whose culture consists 
of a blend of many diverging influences, are closer to the animistic 
world of the agriculturists than to the feudalistic conceptions of 
the father-right peoples. To them, not only man and beast, but 
also tree and cloud and stone and river, are enlivened by spiritual 
forces ; and the dead body too is alive with magic forces capable 
of influencing dangerously or favourably the living. Because of 
their mixed cultural development, the arctic peoples have adopted 
the burial methods of almost all other societies, including interment 
and the weighting down of the grave with stones ; simple abandon- 
ment of the corpse which is eaten by the animals of the wilderness ; 
the destruction of the dead by fire, and scaffold burial. The 
Gilyaks and Chukchee cremate their dead, collect the ashes, and 
erect small huts over the remains, which,are worshipped by relatives. 
The Mongols, on the other hand, sit by and watch the dogs tear 
apart what was a human being just a few hours ago. 

It may be worth while to dwell briefly on the burial customs of 
a culture as highly developed as that of the Natchez, those extra- 
ordinary people, now extinct, who once inhabited the lower Missis- 
sippi Valley. Whether or not the dead of their lower caste, or 
Stinkards, were treated in any special fashion has escaped the 
attention of the ancient writers, but it is known that the funeral of 
a Sun, a noble chieftain, certainly was a remarkable event. Gravier, 
a Jesuit father, and Penicaut have furnished exciting descriptions 
of such funerals, during which many innocent lives were sacrificed 
for the glory of the departed not only cooks and skilled attendants 
who had to continue their services in the next world, but also small 
children sacrificed by their own parents. 

In 1704 a great female Sun died, and her husband, who came 
from the ranks of the Stinkards, was immediately strangled so 
that he could accompany her to the Great Village of the Dead. 
Both were bedded on a triumphal car in their cabin, and fourteen 
scaffolds were erected in the public square, each attended by a 
festively garbed man, a moriturus, who had pledged his life to 
the deceased while she was still alive. Each of the fourteen men 


himself wove the cord with which he was to be strangled ; each 
had his face painted vermilion and was attended by five servants. 
" At the end of four days," records the ancient author, " they 
began the ceremony of ' the march of the bodies.' " Fathers 
and mothers of twelve children under three years of age strangled 
their own offspring with their bare hands in honour of the 
departed, and * decorated* the noble bier with the tiny bodies. 
The funeral cortege was preceded by the fathers who carried 
their dead children. Finally the fourteen pledged .men were 
strangled by the singing relatives of the dead chief tainess. 

The custom of killing human beings for the * comfort J of the 
departed is a phenomenon encountered especially in the high 
cultures. It springs from the habit of picturing the hereafter 
similar to earthly existence. The Chinese heaven and hell know 
whole hierarchies of ' government ' officials, just as on earth. 
In fact, no people is capable of imagining a Great Beyond in 
which the fundamental conditions and blessings do not correspond 
to the patterns deemed desirable on earth. During the ceremony 
canonizing a saint the Pope appeals " to all of the heavenly court." 

The concept of life after death developed especially in the 
animistic ideas of the agriculturists, with the later addition of 
ethical evaluations. The cjass and caste concepts of the herdsmen 
are reflected in the desire to equip the noble traveller as completely 
as possible for the long trip to the next land. 

Fettering of the dead is as old as the phenomenon of death 
itself, and there is hardly a prehistoric grave in which some pre- 
caution was not used to hinder the dead from escaping and 
reappearing. Often some bones were removed and others added 
to * confuse ' the corpse ; its head was turned towards the ground, 
or purposeful mutilations were performed, in the same way that 
to-day's primitives tie the hands of a corpse to the neck, weight 
the grave or fence it in with barricades, behead the body before 
burial, build mock paths away from the village, or tie the deceased 
into his coffin so firmly that he cannot leave his place of confinement. 

The ancient Egyptians were especially careful in this respect. 
Their fear of Achu, or Chu, the returning dead, inspired many 
methods of precaution. When the priests described the hereafter 
as a place of glory nobody could believe that its joys could possibly 
measure up to the joys of Egypt, and sheer force was used to 
prevent the Achu from returning. The dead were decapitated, 
subjected to ruses of all kinds, vital organs like heart and brains 
were removed. 

From fettering the corpse with knotted strings developed the 


artful wrapping of the mummified body with yards and yards 
of bandages, the ends of which were closed with complicated 
knots and often sealed with images to frighten the spirit and 
thereby restrain the Wanderlust. The Egyptian coffin, which 
closely follows the contours of the human form, was supposed 
to have the effect of constricting armour ; furthermore, it was 
closed with ingenious locks impossible to open from within. In 
addition, many of the inscriptions in these coffins praise the 
comforts of the hereafter so vividly that the 
dead who might have planned an escape would 
be persuaded to remain in their coffins. 

The Incas of Peru mummified their rulers 
and buried them in full regalia in a crouching 
position. They were firmly tied into a square- 
shaped bundle. Sometimes such a bundle con- 
tains several bodies on which an artificial head 
was mounted to give the impression that it 
was only one mummy. These preserved dead 
bodies were said to have magic qualities, and 
were carried along for good luck in wars. 
Some of the mummies of the Inca rulers, 
decorated with golden masks, precious, brace- 
lets, and gorgeous hair ornaments, sat on golden 
chairs in a circle round the picture of the Sun 
Temple in Cuzco. The Aztecs, also, mummi- 
fied their most noble dead and the warriors 
killed in battle and the women who died during 
childbirth. These alone were reborn to spiritual life in the sun. 

The dead Chibcha rulers were buried in hidden graves, fully 
equipped with bags containing cocoa and jars filled with chicha, 
and surrounded by the bodies of their killed wives and servants. 
The many mock entrances and labyrinthine paths within the 
Egyptian pyramids had the same purpose : to hide away the 
magic mummies from possible intruders who might steal the bodies 
and their treasures, and benefit from their mystical powers. 

In Tibet we find the typical dual father-right methods of com- 
plete destruction of the corpses of the common people, and 
preservation of the corpses of the nobles (especially the Lamas) 
by mummification. While holy bodies are kept in sacred mummy 
containers which often have the shape of small temples, the 
corpses of the common people are offered to the wild animals. 
If birds pick at them and carry them away the soul will go to heaven ; 
if pigs or dogs devour them it indicates a rebirth on earth. If 


V ' " 

' 1 


After Forstmann 


the dead person is quickly devoured it means he was a good man 
if he isn't, it indicates the opposite, and he must expect stress and 
punishment. The trumpets and drums of the holy Lamas, 
fashioned from human bones and skulls, indicate the antiquity 
of animistic beliefs in the religions of higher cultures ; and the 
custom of addressing the departed soul springs from the old idea 
that the dead are able to listen, although they have no means of 

The custom of indicating a state of mourning by outex symbols 
is equally ancient. Painting the face white or black is supposed 
to trick the dead into the belief that the mourners are ghosts, 
and not living creatures to be envied. The restrictions to which 
the survivors submit themselves are meant to appease the grief 
and jealousy of those who can no longer be with them. 

As to the general attitude of modern men toward the phenom- 
enon of death it often strikes us just as unpreparedly as it does 
the victim of witchcraft who dies in the jungle. Whether we 
are happy or unhappy in the knowledge that " this, too, shall 
pass " is' determined by the degree of soul substance which we 
may or may not possess. Whatever we believe, so much is sure : 
that, in the words of an ancient Tibetan book, " Nothing but 
emptiness comes from an jmpty room," and that only those who 
believe are happy. The form of our beliefs is not of such para- 
mount importance, as long as they are carried out with integrity 
and conviction. Whether we picture the Great Beyond as a form 
of individual immortality or as a dissolution into a greater 
spiritual entity, whether we expect to fly on the wings of birds 
to the sun or hope to be care-free and innocent like the reed 
our passing will be a peaceful one if our lives have been directed 
by the one impenetrable Source who alone knows the significance 
of stress and bliss, of life and death, and the origin of all things. 



Of Home and Hearth and Pots and Pans 

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xxi (1926). 


ACORNS, as food, 99, 152153; storage 
houses for, 26 

"Acorns, Origin of," 353~354 

Adulterers, 292, 296 

Aggri pearls, 202 

Agricultural society, laws and govern- 
ment of, 303-308 

Agriculture, development of, 94-106 

Air-conditioning, primitive, 114 

Akori y 71 

Alcoholic drinks, 151, 163-166 

Alliances, inter-tribal, 305 

Alphabet, development of, 233236 

Ancestors, belief in, 366-367 

Animal breeding, 106-110 

Animal fables, 345 

Animal skins, use of, 138-140, 191 

Animal traps, 76-87 

Animals, corpses destroyed by, 378, 
381; human feelings attributed to, 
332, 333 ; myths about, 345 ; souls of, 
326, 327, 338; use of tools by, 108, 

Animism, 326, 332-334, 3 8 > 3 8 2 

Ants, torturing with, 253 

Arctic tribes, laws and government, 


Arm rings, as money, 200 
Art, primitive, 83-84, 86 
Asylum, right of, 296, 297 
Auto-suggestion, 114 

BABIES, method of carrying, 179 

Babylon, excavations of, 46 

Ball games, 168, 171-172 

Banana, 154 

Banana-tree, 102 

Bark, primitive use of, n6, 117-119, 

190191, 192 
Basket weaving, 124-130 
Bathing, 50-51 
Beads, 70, 71, 202-203 
Beards, 60-6 1 

Beasts of burden, 107, 179, 185 
"Beaver, Origin of/' 358-359 
Beds, 37-39 
'Beehive,' 21, 22 
Beer, 164-165 
Bellows, 143 
Betel nut, 156-157 
Beverages, 155-156, 163-166 
Bible, references to iron in, 144, 145 
Birch-bark canoes, 118 

Bird nets, 75, 76 

Birds, games played with, 169 

' Black drink,' 158 

"Black People, Origin of," 360 

Blacksmiths, and currency, 211; primi- 
tive, 143-144, 146 

Bone tools, 120 

Books, evolution, 236-238 

Boomerang, 117, 171 

Bosjes, 21 

Boundaries, laws relating to, 288-290, 
292, 294, 298 

Boxing, 171 

Boys, initiation of, 246-254 

Bracelets, 71, 123 

Brag flute, 223 

Braiding, art of, 124-130 

Brandy, 165 

Brassiere, 72 

Bride, payment for, 207 

Bridges, early types, 177-178 

Bronze Age, 140, 141 

Burial, methods of, 326, 329, 364-366, 

CACAO, 156 

Caesarean operation, 114 

Camels, breeding of, 107 

Canals, 176177 

Canoes, 188194 

Caps, 65, 66 

Carrying beam, 180, 181 

Carrying straps, 179 

Cassava shrub, 153 

"Cat, Origin of," 360 

Catapults, 83, 187 

Cattle breeding, development of, 106 


Cattle-breeding peoples, culture of, 107 
Caves, as dwellings, 19-20; paintings 

in, 83-84, 

Celebrations, 172-173 
Ceramics see Pottery 
Chairs, 40 
Chariot, 187 
Chemical lighters, 36 
Chickens, domestication of, 106 
Chieftainship, 292, 296, 299, 307 
Child Eater, 242 
Children, games of, 167; punishment 

of, 242 ; training of, 239, 242-246 
Chinese currency, 209 
Chinese palace, 46 



Chocolate, origin of, 156 

Cigars, 16 1 

Cire-perdue process, 142 

City, origin of, 32 

Clay, eating of, 154; houses made of, 

28; pottery, I33~i3 8 
Cliff dwellings, 30 
Climate, importance of, 89 
Climbing, 170 
Cloth made of bark, 118 
Clothing, 72-73 
Clowns, 268-269, 273-277 
Club, stone, 123; wooden, 117 
Coca, chewing of, 157 
Cocaine, 114, 157 
Coffee, origin of, 155 
Coiffures, 6163 

Coins, 195-210; 'edible,' 205-206 
'Colleges,' female, 256-257 
Colour symbolism, 53-55 
Colours, cosmetic, 52-59 
Combs, 64 
Comeliness, primitive standards of, 


Commercial law, 294 
Communication, methods of, 216238 
Community houses, 27, 29-30, 32, 44 
Containers, types of, 41-42 
Cooking, 151-154 
'Coolie' yoke, 180 
Copper money, 209 * 

Copyright, 279-280, 294, 297 
Corpse, abandonment of, 378, 379 
Corroboree, 267, 294 
Cosmetics, 51-59, 73 
Cotton money, 212 
Cowrie-shell money, 70, 168, 196 
Creation, myths about, 341, 342, 343- 


Cremation, 364, 379 

Crime, children considered incapable 
of, 244; punishment of, 290-292, 
296-297, 300, 301, 304-306 

Cross-bow, origin of, 81 

Currency, myths relating to, 213 

DANCES, 168, 262, 266-267, 272-280 

passim, 334, 373 
Dark Ages, 112 

"Day and Night, Origin of," 350 
Dead, attitude towards, 325, 330; fear 

of, 364-365, 380 

Death, attitude towards, 362-382 
"Death, Origin of," 352~353 
Deflation of primitive money, 214 
Diba, 65 

Digging stick, 92, 102, 108, 116 
'Diplomats' sticks,' 227 
Distillation, invention of, 165 

Diivarra money, 197-199 

Dog, domestication of, 106 

Dog teams, for pulling sledges, 185 

Dog-tooth money, 203 

Dolls, 167; and magic, 319 

Domestication of animals, 106-110 

Doors, primitive, 31, 46 

Drilling, to produce fire, 35 

Drinks, 155156, 163166 

Drugs, 157-159 

Drums 282 ; as signalling instruments, 


Dug-out, 188-190 
Dwellings, primitive, 19-33 
Dyeing of skins, 139-140 

EARS, piercing of, 69 
Earth, eating of, 154 
Eclipse, beliefs about, 340 
Education, 239-261 
Effigy magic, 3 1 8-3 1 9 
Elephant hunting, 92 

FEASTS, 172-173 

Feather money, 204 

Fei t 20 1 -202 

Felting, art of, 140 

Fertility plays, 265, 266, 270-272, 316 

Fertilizing, in hoe culture, 105, 106, 109 

Fetish figures, 331 

Fettering of the dead, 380 

Fibre money, 212 

Field, choosing spot for, 104-105 

' Filling stations ' for fire-lighting, 37 

Finger-nails, filing of, 69 

' Finishing schools,' 256-257 

Fire, and magic, 314315; beliefs and 
myths relating to, 33-34; 'filling 
stations,' 37; 'lighters,' 36; methods 
of kindling, 34-36; signals, 225 

"Fire, Origin of," 351 

Fire-plough, 36 

Fire -pump, 36 

Fire -saw, 35 

Fish, as food, 152 

Flood, story of, 342-346 

Flowers, in hoe culture, 106 

Flutes, 284 

Food, and magic, 313; storage of, by 
harvesting tribes, 100; types of, 

^ 151-155 

Food-gathering groups, 91-106 
Food-gathering tribes, laws of, 290-298 
Foot-gear, primitive, 72, 182 
Frigate bird, games played with, 169 
Fulbe conquest, 308 
Funerals, games played at, 168-169 
Fur blankets, 130 
Furniture, primitive, 40-48 



Gait ezen, 34 

Gallows, 80 

Game nets, 75, 76 

Games, 167-170 

Geophagy, I54~i55 

Girls, tribal initiation of, 254-257 

Glacial Age, 84, 86-87, 91 

Goattas y 25 

Gods, 327, 328, 334, 336 

Gold money, 210211 

Gongs as money, 209 

Government, 292, 293, 296, 297-298, 

300, 301, 303, 305, 309-310 
Graves, platform and scaffold, 377 
Gravity trap, 78-79, 87 
Grease paints, 52 
"Great Flood, Story of," 342-346 
" Great-houses," 29 
Greeting customs, 243-244 

HAIR, bleaching, 63; for braiding 
material, 129; removing, 59, 60, 139 

Hair-brushes, 64 

Hair-dyeing, 63 

Hair-rinsing, 63 

Hair-styles, 61-63 

Hammocks, 39, 114, 181 

Harvesting tribes, economy of, 97-102, 
1 08; laws and government of, 293- 
297; property rights of, 293-295 

Hashish, 157 

Hats, 65, 66 

Head-band, 179 

Head-rest, 38, 46 

Head trophies, 368-369 

Hemp, smoking of, 157 

Herdsmen, conception of death, 377; 
invasion by, 308; laws and govern- 
ment of, 306-308 

'Hide money,' 212 

Hieroglyphs, Egyptian, 233 

High jumping, 170 

Hockey, 171 

Hoe culture, 101-106 

Homes, aesthetic qualities of, 32-33, 
45-48; comforts of, 37-48; types of, 

19-33 . 

Hook-swinging, 252 
Horns, musical, 284 
Horseback riding, 186 
Horses, as beasts of burden, 107, 185; 

breeding of, 106, 107 
Household implements, 41-43, 117, 122, 


Houses see Homes 
Hunting tools, 75-87 
Hunting tribes, economy of, 84, 89-97; 

laws of, 295, 297-300 
Hut, round, 21 

ICE AGE, 84, 86-87, 91 

Ice skates, 182 

Igloo, 22-23 

Illnesses, magic, 316 

Incision, practice of, 58, 252, 256 

Inheritance, 296, 307 

Initiation rites, 246-257 

Inventions, development of, 111-149 

Iron Age, 140-147 

Irrigation, 109 

JAR, as money, 201 
Jumping, 170 

KAYAK, 191 

Khipus, 228-229 

" Killer Whale, Origin of/' 358 

Kissing, 244 

Klolek, 249-251 

Knives, stone, 122 

Kuka game, 168 

Kumyss brandy, 165 

LABOUR, division of, 91, 147 

Labrets, 69 

Lacrosse, 172 

Lake dwellers, houses of, 29 

Lamps, 41 

Land see Property 

Language and communication, 216, 218 

Lapp$, tents of, 25 

Latch-keys, primitive, 31 

Law, systems of, 287-3 1 1 

Leather, making of, 139 

Liana bridges, 178 

Light signals, 225 

Lightning, regarded as animate, 339 

Lips, wooden disks in, 69 

Lipsticks?- 56 

Litters, for travelling, 181 

Loom, development of, 131-133 

Love-' letter' of carved sticks, 228 

Love-magic, 324 


Magic powers of ancestors, 366-367 

Magic, practice of, 312-324 

Magician, evil, as cause of death, 371 

Maidu baskets, 127 

Mankala game, 168 

Maori, tattooing, 58-59 

'Maria Theresa taler/ 208 

Marijuana, 159 

Maruzva beer, 164 

Masks, carved, 369-370; cult of, 332; 

sacred, 250, 252; theatre, 269-279 


Matches, origin of, 36 
Meat-preserving, 152 



Medicine-men, 114, 317, 321 

Menstruation, attitude towards, 254 

Menu of primitive kitchen, 151-154 

Message sticks, 218, 227 

Metal money, 207-2 1 1 

Metal tools, 140-141, 145 

Mimos, 265, 268, 277 

Money, 195-215 

Monochord, 283 

Monoxylas, 188 

"Moon, Origin of," 347~35O 

Moon, regarded as animate, 334, 339 

Moral code, 335, 336 

Mosquito-nets, 39 

Mounds, Indian, 375 

Mourning, indications of, 218, 372, 375, 


Mummification, 364, 375, 381 
Music, primitive, 280-286 
Musical instruments, 281-284 
Myths, primitive, 336-362 

NAKEDNESS, attitude towards, 168, 243 

Name-magic, 316, 320 

Names, houses called by, 30 

Nassi wine, 164 

Navigation, primitive, 194 

Neanderthal man, 89 

Necklaces, 70-71, 73 

Nets for trapping, 75, 76 

'Neutral territories/ 294 

News communication, 216218 

News criers, 217, 218-219 

Newspapers, development of, 238 

Nobles, 309, 310 

Nonda, 158 

Nose, piercing of, 68 

OCTLI, 164 

Opium, 157, 206 

Ornaments, 69-73, 122 

Oson, 243 

Outrigger canoes, i93 -I 94 

PAINT PATTERNS, as bodily adornment, 


Palaeolithic Age, economy of, 89, 91 
Palm wine, 163 
Paper, invention of, 119, 238 
' Paper money,' 211-212 
Papyrus, 119, 236, 237 
Parchment, 233-237 
Pelota, igi 
Perfumes, 72 
Personal magic, 3i7~324 
Photographs, aversion to, 320 
Picture writing, 231-232 
' Pig-money,' 200 
Pigs, domestication of, 106 

Pile houses, 28-29 

Pillows, earliest, 38 

Pipes, tobacco, 160, 162 

Pituri leaves, 158 

Plantain, 154 

Plays, primitive, 262-286 

Plough, invention of, 108-109 

Pole bridge, 178 

Porcelain, invention of, 137 

Porte-chaise, 181 

Portraits, aversion to, 320 

Pottery, art of, 133-138; primitive, 41 

"Pottery, Origin of," 256-357 

Prayers, 334~335 

Preventive magic, 319-320 

Private property, 295-296, 297, 307, 311 

Producer, in theatre, 277 

Property marks, 226227, 298 

Property rights, 291, 293, 295, 297-300, 

303, 3<H 30?-3 8 > 3IO-3U 
Pulque, 164, 1 66 
Punishment of children, 242 
Pygmies, baskets of, 125; elephant 

hunts of, 92; inability to develop 

agriculture, 95 
Pyramids, Egyptian, 33 


RAFTS, 190-191 

Rain, and magic, 314, 315 

Reindeer, as beast of burden, 185 

Religious plays, 265, 268-275 

Rice, wild, 99-100 

Ricksha, 187 

River roads, 176 

Roads, importance of, 174-1 75 

Rock houses, 30 

Rubber, as money, 206 

Rubber ball, 1 14 

Running, 170 

SAGO, 154 

Salmon, 152 

Salopo gaxo wine, 164 

Salt, 155, 205 

' Salt streets,' of Europe, 175 

Sandals, 182 

'Scalp-cries,' 219 

Scar tattoo, 58, 59 

Script, invention of, 233, 235 

Seal hunt, Eskimo written account of,23 1 

Secret societies, 257-258, 304-305 

Sedan chair, 188 

Shampoos, 63-64 

Shaving, 60 

Sheep breeding, 106, 107 

Shell money, 196-201 



" Shell Money, Origin of," 354-356 

Shells, as personal adornments, 70-71 

Shield, 117 

Shows, primitive, 262-286 

Sign language, 224 

Signal horns, 220 

Signs, primitive, 224-226 

Silk, development of, 133 

' Silk roads/ 175 

Skin boats, 191 

Skins, 138-140, 191 

Skis, 182 

* Skull money/ 205 

Skull worship, 331, 367-368 

Skulls, nailing of, 364 

Slavery, 300 

Sledge, 184-185 

Slit drum, 220, 222 

Slot-machine, invention of, 87 

Smelting, 143-145 

Smoke signals, 225 

Smoking, 159-162 

Snail-shells, as money, 196, 197 

Snare traps, 79 

Snow-shoes, 183-184 

"Snow-shoes, Origin of," 357 

Soil, importance of, 89 

"Song Dausi, Origin of," 361-362 

Songs, copyrighting, 279-280 

Soul, beliefs about, 325-334, 362-382, 


Soul-stones, 331 
Soul-wood, 331 
Spear money, 207208 
Spears, duelling with, 171; wooden, 116 
Specialization, effect of, 148 
Spindle, invention of, 130-131 
Spirits, belief in, 325-332, 336-342 
Sports, 170172 
Springing-pole trap, 80 8 1 
Stages, for theatre, 278 
State, laws and government of, 308-311 
Stimulants, 156-164; as currency, 206 
Stinkards, 309, 310, 379 
Stone implements, 120-122 
Stone money, 201-202 
Stools, 40 

Storage houses, 26, 32 
Story-tellers, 345-346 
String games, 168 
Subterranean houses, 30 
Sun, and magic, 314-315; and souls of 

dead, 327; regarded as animate, 329, 

334, 339 340~343 
Sun-dance festivities, 272, 274 
"Sun, Origin of," 346-347 
Surf-riding, 171 
Swimming, 171 
Syphilis, native remedy for, 114 


Tambu money, 197-199 

Tapa, 119, 204 

Taro, 153 

Tattooing, 58-59 

Taxes, 214 

Tea, origin of, 155 

Teepee, 23-24 

Teeth, customs relating to, 66-68 ; dye- 
ing, 66 ; mutilation of, 67, 68 

Telephones, Eskimo, 114; native, 114 

Tents, modern use of, 26; principal 
types of, 23-26 

Territory, unit of, 288, 298, 302 

Thatched house, 29 

Theatre, primitive, 264-286 

Throwing, 170 

TiboSj 104105 

Tipiti tube press, 128 

Tobacco, 159-162; as money, 151, 

Toboggan, 184 

Token figures, 373 

'Token' money, 212 

Tokens, magic, 323, 324 

Tom-tom, 221 

Tools, as money, 206; metal, 140141, 
145 ; ' revolt ' of, 47-48 ; skill of primi- 
tives in use of, 32, 33, 41-48, 89, 92 

Tooth coins, 203204 

Torsion trap, 81-82 

Tortflre, in initiation rites, 252254, 

Totem-poles, 40 

Tow bridge, 178 

Toys, 167-168 

Trades, development of, 147-149 

Trails, primitive, 174-175, 176 

Transportation, methods of, 175-194 

Trapping, methods of, 76-87; signals 
of, 225 

Traps, importance to modern techno- 
logical development, 83-87; pre- 
historic, 76-77 

Travois, 186 

Tree houses, 31 

Trepanation, 114 

Trespass, 288-290 

Trials, 304, 306-307 

Troglodytism, 20 

Trousers, origin of, 72 

Trunks, riding on, 188 

Tukul, 29 

Tump-line, 179 

Twine, 129 

UMIAK, 191 
Umpires, 171 
Urns, burial in, 374 



VEDDAS, as cave dwellers, 20; wind- 
breaks of, 20 
Villages, 302-303, 305 
Violin, origin of, 81 


Walking, 170 

Wampum belts, 231 

Water-containers, 41, 127, 136 

Waterways, 175, 176; travel on, 188-194 

Weapons as money, 206 

Weaving, 124-134 

Wheel, invention of, 109, 186 

Wheel trap, 79, 86 

Wheelbarrow, 187 

Wicki-ups, 21 

Wigwam, 24 

Wild rice, 99-100 

Windbreaks, 20-21 

Wines, 163-164 

* Winter-counts, 5 231 

Witchcraft see Magic 

Women, and cosmetics, 51-59, 73; 
duties of, 147; in agriculture, 91, 
103; political rights of, 303 

Wood, Age of, 115; primitive use of, 

Word -magic, 316, 321-322 

Wrestling, 171 * 

Writing, development of, 233236 

Yourtas, 25